2012
10.19

M2M in the Emergency Room

My husband recently spent a night in the emergency room. Actually, let me rephrase that. My husband recently spent an hour in the emergency room. That’s right. The amount of time that passed from check in to check out was almost exactly one hour. In this time, my husband was diagnosed and given a treatment plan for his broken shoulder.

In years past, an hour would have been the amount of time spent in the waiting room, but now it seems the wait in the ER has decreased significantly. Maybe it was a slow night—that is what my husband suggested. But I have a few other thoughts.

Healthcare has changed in recent years. Advanced hospitals are being built with more amenities and technology to improve patient care. Specifically, M2M (machine-to-machine) technology can drive efficiencies in the emergency department, allowing doctors and hospital staff to see and treat patients very quickly.

As one example, this summer, Colchester General Hospital in Essex, England, announced it is using realtime location-tracking technology. With RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags affixed to various items such as wheelchairs, beds, cardiac monitors, etc., the staff can very quickly locate an item.

How does this tech impact patient care? Danny Cummings, a nurse with the critical outreach team, suggests that being able to know where equipment is located means treatment can begin sooner.

For patients, this means shorter stays in the waiting room since the staff doesn’t have to spend valuable time looking for hospital equipment. For healthcare professionals, if an item is moved off-site, an automatic alert is sent to the appropriate personnel, saving money for the hospital as well.

In the future, at Colchester General Hospital, doctors will use tablets to order diagnostic tests such as blood work and scans without having to fill in forms manually—speeding up processes even more.

Beyond tracking equipment and using tablet devices, X-ray technology is advancing as well. With digital radiology at Colchester General Hospital, the X-rays can appear instantly on a computer screen, meaning staff no longer needs to manually download the information, saving time and reducing the backlog of patients in the Radiology Department.

I recently had an opportunity to speak with the owner of a dental practice in High Point, N.C., that is using advanced X-ray technology to automatically send patient information to the correct room after an X-ray is taken. With the workflow enhancement, the dentist is able to attend to patients much faster.

These are just a few example of how M2M technology and connected devices are being used in the healthcare industry. My recent experience at the emergency room was drastically different than encounters I have had in the past. With all these advances, I believe it is safe to infer ER visits will be expedited in the future.

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