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Scottish Hospital Adopts IoT to Boost Efficiency

Brian Baglow


NHS artificial intelligence

A hospital in the Scottish Highlands has begun trialling Internet of Things technology to automate bed monitoring in a bid to improve efficiency and patient safety.

The pilot in Caithness General is the result of a collaborative project between Edinburgh-based technology company Beringar, and CENSIS, the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems.

The team created a system which tags each bed with an electronic ID and each room with a sensor which can identify the beds it contains. The Bluetooth tags relay the information in real-time using the LoRaWAN low-power network, and can then be monitored by staff via a live maintenance dashboard.

Time saving efficiency

Hospital beds are high-tech pieces of equipment with numerous mechanical and hydraulic parts. Keeping them maintained and serviced is a major task for the NHS, but just finding them can be problematic and lead to a lot of wasted time.

Mark Sorsa-Leslie, the co-founder of Beringar, said: “The issue is beds move around all the time, and the big problem is they need to be maintained – and they need to be maintained regularly. When [staff] get the job ticket to do the maintenance, they have to track down the bed and work out where it is.”

Research from the Institute of Facilities Management, indicates that up to 20% of the time spent servicing beds is wasted on looking for the specific piece pf equipment. A Harvard University study puts the costs of this badly utilised space at around £4,500 per employee per year.

Safety improvement

There was also a safety imperative which was one of the key drivers in bringing the project forward. Dr Stephen Milne, Business Development Manager at CENSIS and one of the partners involved in the project, explained that there had been a recent case in England where a bed had malfunctioned and a patient had fallen out of the bed and subsequently the trust was fined. As a result, better monitoring and improving bed safety was something which had been recognised as a priority to address.

The decision to pursue the bed monitoring pilot was part of a wider effort to explore how technology could be used to make the NHS estate smarter, safer and more efficient. At a time when budgets across the trust are strained, developing solutions which can reduce cost and improve operating process is crucial.

Speaking about the project, the Head of Estates at NHS Highland, Eric Green, said:

“It’s now more important than ever for the NHS to increase productivity and identify where it can make changes to enhance efficiency. Beringar’s technology has allowed us to obtain immediate information on where our hospital beds are located.”

“The Bluetooth tags and dashboard make it easy to find the bed we’re looking for and access up-to-date maintenance records, enabling us to make smarter, more informed decisions.”

The Highlands is an ideal test-bed for IoT

Milne thinks this latest pilot is just the beginning, and that the Highlands is a prime location to pursue IoT innovation: “Particularly in healthcare, the NHS Highlands is ideal as a test-bed – you need complete buy in for a new project to be a success, the large geographic area and mix of small to large facilities means there is a real desire within the NHS for trialling and scaling for new innovative technologies”

“But there is a great opportunity nationally as well, and as the technology matures we’ll see a lot more new markets opening up. At the moment the required infrastructure is not yet in place, it is still being developed. But as the infrastructure is rolled out, I think we’ll see Scotland becoming a real leader in the IoT space.”


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Brian Baglow


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