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Using radio technology for in-hospital medical device connectivity

February 24, 2020 John O'Gorman
Using radio technology for in-hospital medical device connectivity

According to Gartner, 5G and high-functioning networks will accelerate mobile capabilities in healthcare and help connect more than 90 per cent of in-hospital medical devices by 2025.


While these predictions are extremely promising, they don’t consider the huge connectivity challenges hospitals experience sending data externally to medtech companies. With thick concrete walls, congested networks, and complex connected medical devices such as MRIs taking priority; 5G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can’t be relied on to send patient vitals, or drug and device order data from hospitals to medtech companies in real time.

 

So, how does a medtech company connect to an in-hospital device in a complex and secure manner to access patient and device data in real time?

The solution arrived in the surprising form of radio technology.

During an open day held by Trinity College, Dublin, I was shown the new prototype for Long Range Wide-Area Networks (LoRaWAN). The technology uses radio waves to broadcast data, has a range of 20 – 30 km, can broadcast a few bytes of data per day ­– which is enough to send information such as device activity or flag when vital medicine is low ­– and has a battery life of a year.

Not wanting to get ahead of ourselves, we started testing it at our Dublin HQ. The team were perplexed to see us wandering around the grounds with antenna to judge if signals could find a way through our building’s concrete and glass infrastructure; it turned out our building acted as a great model for a hospital.

Next, we worked with the CONNECT Centre, Trinity College to create a roadmap for the technology. We then collaborated with leading Irish universities on two aspects: Firstly, to develop bespoke antennae for using LoRaWAN in hospitals, and secondly to profile the radiation pattern from the antenna to create integration methods that would work for all hospitals, regardless of their infrastructure.

Once we’d finished the development phase, we were ready to put LoRaWAN to the test in live hospital settings. We were confident that by using the technology we could:

 

- Allow medtech companies to receive data from in-hospital connected devices after each use: By receiving data every time the device is used, medtech companies can regularly monitor device activity and flag any issues as they arise. Also, by accurately monitoring medicine inventory levels, they can avoid tying up their capital in ordering excess stock of medication, where hospitals only pay per use.

- Enable hospitals to operate more efficiently: With medtech companies able to monitor medicine inventory levels and device efficiency after each use, devices can operate at peak efficiency, and vital supplies of life-saving technology and medication never run out.

- Improve the speed and accuracy of patient care: By improving operational efficiency for medtech companies and hospitals – through the use of timely data – medical professionals have peace of mind that the right supplies will always be available for patients. Also, they no longer have to manually operate a device, or log and order medication. This frees up more of their time to spend with patients.

 

LoRaWAN is well suited for in-hospital medical device connectivity; it uses fewer routers and requires less time to install. 

Once we had a fit for purpose product, we partnered with four hospitals in Ireland and one in the US to pilot the technology and track results.

We discovered that we could use one router in conjunction with the LoRaWAN to connect an entire hospital ward, compared to the ten to 20 routers that were previously needed with conventional hospital systems. This transmitted data faster, both across and out of the hospital, and was more cost and time-effective to set up. In fact, in one hospital, installing one LoRaWAN gateway allowed us to receive transmission through the entire building, which had previously been using 300 Wi-Fi repeaters without achieving full connection. With a Wi-Fi-based system, engineers are also required to visit the hospital to program each device and router manually.

We help medtech companies and hospitals work together seamlessly to improve the quality of healthcare; this is just step one.

 

John O'Gorman

Product Innovation Manager

S3 Connected Health 

 

See the original article on Med-Tech Innovation

 

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