NHS gets connected with new IoT trial to track hospital beds

Caithness General Hospital tests new system to easily locate beds and access maintenance records

A Scottish hospital is using the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor and track the whereabouts of its medical beds as part of a new initiative to automate bed maintenance, a traditionally-manual process for much of the UK’s healthcare estate.

In a bid to improve efficiency and maximise safety; NHS Highland’s Caithness General Hospital in Wick is trialling a system developed by property technology company, Beringar, and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, to easily locate beds and quickly access their maintenance records as they move around the facility.

Medical beds are high-tech pieces of equipment with various mechanical and hydraulic parts, meaning it is vital that hospitals ensure regular maintenance checks are performed to protect patient safety.

Beringar’s technology is providing the NHS with a suite of information, helping it make strategic decisions to deliver a high-performing estate

Caithness General Hospital maintains each of its 68 beds once a month and it is a significant administrative burden to manually keep track of and locate specific beds due for routine check-ups, especially as they frequently move around wards.

To enable staff to clearly see where beds are and when they were last examined, Beringar and CENSIS have together developed a state-of-the-art system which uses Bluetooth tags to transfer real-time data via a low-power, wide area Internet of Things (IoT) network called LoRaWAN.

The tags can be attached to hospital beds, enabling them to share location and maintenance information with a dashboard monitored by NHS personnel.

The trial marks the second rolled out by Beringar for the NHS, after the company recently deployed its technology at Loxford Health Centre in Ilford, Essex, to monitor how rooms were used in the building.

The company was previously named one of the winners at CENSIS’s IoT Explorer, an accelerator programme for businesses looking to develop IoT-related products.

The Innovation Centre has since assisted in the development of Beringar’s sensor technology and initially introduced the start-up company to the LoRaWAN network, which its system now relies upon.

The current trial at Caithness General Hospital is expected to run for six months, with initial data already showing the positive impact it is having on efficiency levels.

Having real-time data on how patients and staff are using its buildings and equipment could be transformative in helping the health service to effectively manage its UK-wide estate and assets

The technology has the potential to be developed further, enabling hospitals to track other valuable portable objects such as dialysis machines.

Eric Green, head of estates at NHS Highland, 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.”

He added: “Beringar understands the pressures and challenges the NHS faces and has designed a sensor which keeps patient confidentiality front-of-mind, transferring small amounts of data, such as a code or a number.

“Rolled out across more NHS facilities, the technology could have huge benefits.”

Mark Sorsa-Leslie, director and co-founder of Beringar, added: “The NHS spends an estimated £8billion every year managing just its property estate.

“Having real-time data on how patients and staff are using its buildings and equipment could be transformative in helping the health service to effectively manage its UK-wide estate and assets.

“Our technology has been developed with the help of CENSIS, who not only supported us in the technological advancement of our sensor system, but also introduced us to the LoRaWAN network, without which our company’s proposition and the growth we’ve already achieved wouldn’t have been possible.”

And Dr Stephen Milne, business development manager at CENSIS, said: “The current trial at Caithness General Hospital is a great example of what using low-cost, low-powered, wide area networks such as LoRaWAN can help companies and organisations achieve.

“Beringar’s technology is providing the NHS with a suite of information, helping it make strategic decisions to deliver a high-performing estate.

“The LoRaWAN network can significantly increase connectivity within rural environments and it’s encouraging to see a hospital in the Highlands already experiencing the benefits of becoming better connected.”

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