Ideally, a smart hospital experience would start at home, with the patient able to check in via an app, specifying room and even food preferences. On arrival they can be guided to an assigned parking space, and as they enter the hospital, the RTLS system guides them to the right area, and hospital staff are notified. App-based wayfinding is a crucial element of developing a smart hospital; not only does it enable patients to smoothly navigate complex hospital facilities, but it reduces the time burden on hospital staff who are otherwise manually checking in and searching for patients or giving directions.
Both patients and staff can receive real-time status updates on upcoming treatment and wait times, allowing improvements in patient flow, reductions in wait times and an increase in treatment capacity. Eventually, healthcare facilities can use trend data to determine further cost and efficiency savings, by optimising space and processes; for example, understanding which rooms or buildings are underutilised, and repurposing them.
The use cases for RTLS are manifold, and the journey to a true smart hospital is a complex process. The difficulties for digitalisation initiatives are rooted in a lack of holistic strategy. However, the use of an IoT lighting based system, such as that from Enlighted, part of the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, provides a ready and integrated infrastructure for lighting, temperature control and RTLS resulting in greater sustainability, operational efficiency and controlled inventory.
Done correctly, RTLS can be a highly valuable addition to a hospital’s digital infrastructure, and easily scaled as needed. But tools like RTLS have to be implemented with a specific outcome in mind. Defining these outcomes clearly in advance allows for data to be intelligently applied to solving challenges, and for dialogue with those whose workflows will be affected (ideally positively), to ensure the change is embraced.
To succeed with this type of digital transformation, and benefit from the financial, experiential, and operational efficiency gains, technologies like RTLS must be integrated into an overarching IoT strategy which places data acquisition and analysis at its core. In this way, multiple technologies for use cases like energy saving, lighting control, better space utilisation and RTLS can be integrated as part of an overarching IoT solution, and careful integration planning will ensure these tools fit together appropriately.