IoT leverages existing systems to effect operating efficiencies

By Kimberly Bonvissuto / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
October 1, 2019

For facility mangers who live in a reactionary world — putting out fires as they erupt— the Internet of Things (IoT) is a game changer.

Healthcare facilities are increasingly using advanced technologies to improve care and efficiently manage day-to-day operations. Worldwide spending on IoT is expected to reach $745 billion this year, rising to more than $1 trillion in 2022, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). The healthcare industry is projected to be among those industries that will lead IoT spending growth with a compound annual growth rate of 15.4% from 2017-2022.

What can IoT do?

The IoT allows facility managers to leverage data to make real-time decisions that can lower costs, improve care and increase operating efficiencies.

Tom Kay, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Texas-based ENTOUCH, a smart building solutions manager, said healthcare organizations and facility managers should embrace IoT for its ability to leverage data to make real-time decisions. That actionable data, he said, helps elevate the facility manager from the “red-headed stepchild” to a value driver across the organization.

“They’re seen as a cost center,” Kay said of facility managers. “Until a critical issue occurs, they may not know it exists. If they are able to leverage data and make it actionable, it elevates them to cost avoidance.”

From a technology perspective, the players at the table also include the real estate manager, construction manager, energy manager, sustainability manager and procurement manager – and now the facility manager.

“They all have a different stake and need for a solution,” Kay said, adding that all of these parties need to collectively agree on what to do as an organization. IoT gives facility mangers a seat at the table because that person is trying to drive value across the organization.

“That’s been more of a trend than ever before,” Kay said. “Facility organizations are being brought in to align with other stakeholders.”

IoT opportunities

Work order management platforms and computerized maintenance management systems are loaded with data. Properly aggregated, Kay said, that data can yield repair and maintenance records that, paired with energy data, can provide facilities a granular view of that facility, its assets and the health of its assets. That information provides the ability to make better capital decisions – whether to repair, replace or simply maintain equipment.

IoT devices allow users to connect, collect critical data, analyze that data and react to it in real time to improve care and operate more efficiently. It’s about leveraging systems already in place. Networking lighting, HVAC, security and access control systems creates real-time data that can produce savings opportunities.

The key, Kay said, is working with an established provider to mine the data and reveal the value.

IoT Challenges

While opportunities abound for IoT, it also raises concerns, especially among IT professionals. The challenge with IoT is bringing data systems under one umbrella and integrating IT and operational technologies to create a smart facility. Using that shared data means facility managers can better understand what is happening in a facility and optimizing performance and efficiencies in building automation systems.

Security, privacy, cost and regulatory requirement concerns can slow progress toward IoT adoption.  Throw in an aging infrastructure and an aging workforce, and the hurdles can seem insurmountable.

“You have the legacy facility manager doing the same task for years, and he feels he can do better with a wrench on his hip,” Kay said. “It’s a hurdle to overcome because technology is seen as a threat.”

In many cases, internal IT teams are seen as a stumbling block to IoT adoption because of security concerns. Kay said it comes down to education and working with a credible organization that can align security with facility requirements.

Actionable data, Kay said, is the new currency. But healthcare is slow to adopt the technology necessary to aggregate that data.

 “In the healthcare space as a whole, they’re not adopting technology fast enough, as it pertains to the care of that facility and the productivity of individuals that service facilities,” Kay said.

Making It Work

The good news is healthcare is moving in that direction. Consumers tend to have technology – who doesn’t have a smartphone these days? That has transitioned and transferred to the business world. And it’s slowly moving into the healthcare field.

Kay likened the progress to moving from paper patient records to electronic medical records – “People were kicking and screaming.” He said the healthcare industry will be forced into IoT adoption – patients or staff will require it because they see the value in it.

“You really need to see where your organization is with technology, when the investment was made, where you’re moving as an organization, is there a process for advancing technology through software updates and enhancements,” Kay said.

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