IoT powers the health care of the future
Australia is facing significant challenges when it comes to looking after its ageing population. The proportion of citizens aged 65 years and over is set to increase from 13% in 2010 to 23% by 2050.
At the same time, the proportion of working-age people is expected to fall by 7% to 60% in the same timeframe. This means more people will need care, while fewer people will be taking up a career in nursing and aged care.
The impact is already being felt by providers such as BaptistCare, which has around 17,000 residents and clients served by its various aged care facilities, nursing homes, retirement villages, community housing, community services and home services operations.
The not-for-profit organisation recognised that it would be unable to meet the challenges of caring for an ageing population with the resources available, so has put in place a plan to leverage new and emerging technologies.
This strategy embraces everything — from robotics, to wearables, to the innovative application of wireless technologies that can fully leverage the Internet of Things.
According to BaptistCare Chief Information Officer George Lymbers, the foundation for a technological capability in providing care for the organisation’s aged clients is the use of ubiquitous wireless networking throughout its facilities.
“Wireless is at the heart of everything we are doing,” he said. “Without it, we wouldn’t be able to implement what we are currently doing and we would be hampered in looking at future technologies such as wearables, mobile computing, big data and even robotics.
“This is the Internet of Things in real life. We could not do all the things we have planned without wireless or without a technology partner who is willing to learn and walk with us to understand the future challenges for aged care. And that’s where Logicalis has really stepped up to the plate,” Lymbers said.
As part of a holistic system developed by Logicalis that encompasses many operations within a facility, one critical operation stands out: a combination of networking technology and unified communications integrated with a core wireless network, which enables BaptistCare’s nurse call system to locate the nearest nurse/carer to a resident when a call button is pressed. Each staff member wears a Wi-Fi-enabled communications device around their neck, enabling the system to identify the nearest caregiver and providing a rapid response to the patient. Once the call is accepted by the carer, an instant voice channel is established with the resident.
The next step will be to IP-enable the environment so that it may eventually include medical device monitoring of residents in each facility. The data collected will enable real-time reporting, along with automated updates to clinical care notes. In future, the data will also provide predicative analytics about the medical state of residents and provide alerts prior to a medical event occurring.
“This data collected also helps with monitoring respiration, blood pressure and heart rate; in fact, virtually any measurable biometric can be used as a data analytics source,” said Lymbers. “All the data goes into the cloud, generating a pattern for each individual. If something changes, staff are immediately alerted via the wearable device.
“By adopting a future-orientated healthcare strategy, we are better able to meet our clients’ needs faster, much more efficiently and with better resources, while continuing to deliver high-quality personal care to each and every BaptistCare client,” said Lymbers.
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