IoT Aids in Patient Safety and Infection Control

In the continued effort to reduce the spread of infection, hospitals use IoT technologies to help track and monitor variables that impact the sustainability of virus particles, bacterial growth, and sterilization.

Image credit: CenTrak

Staying home has become the new normal. In the continuing effort to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, 45 states have declared full or partial shelter-in-place orders. In other countries full lockdowns are in place, forbidding people from being outside without prior approval. It seems to be helping, but so are technology solutions that assist in flattening the curve.

With the current pandemic, IoT technologies are being used in innovative ways. For example, 3D printers are being used to make parts for medical equipment and personal protection equipment. Automakers are shifting operations to build parts for ventilators and other medical supplies. Breweries and distilleries are making hand sanitizer from boozy byproducts: Brickway Brewery and Distillery, in Omaha, NE, and St. George Spirits in Alameda, CA have each handcrafted sanitizer products and are giving it away to emergency workers and those in most need.

Reducing Infection in Hospitals

Another important area of focus in the virus fight is on reducing the spread of infection inside hospitals. Researchers found that relative humidity levels play a huge role in the viability and spread of a virus and in the health of a patient. They discovered that in a room with 23 percent humidity, three-quarters of the flu virus particles released in the air were active enough to cause infections; after increasing the humidity to 43 percent, most of the virus particles were inactive within 15 minutes.

To combat the spread of infection, IEEE developed an IoT module that can monitor the relative humidity of a room. It adjusts the air temperature and humidifier to ensure the humidity levels remain in the optimum range of 45 to 55 percent. The sensor-based hardware module can transmit humidity and temperature information to a patient in the room, to a nursing station, or to a remote location via the Internet. Designed for use in a hospital because of its high risk of infectious outbreak, it can also be used in homes, schools, or office buildings.

Sterilization levels can be improved using IoT techniques as well. Humidity and steam quality impact the sterilization of medical instruments, but hospitals sample and adjust those variables only periodically. Because high-end monitoring systems can be cost-prohibitive, hospitals measure humidity and steam quality with instruments that can introduce errors. Researchers concluded that using an IoT node to monitor, log, and predict humidity, and steam quality data can result in measurement errors up to 0.25 percent FS, compared to 5.6 percent FS using traditional methods. In addition, predictive analytics allow changes to be made before steam and humidity levels fall below acceptable levels.

Wireless Environmental Monitoring

CenTrak has a series of wireless monitors that puts the above research to use in real-world settings. The company’s Smarter Sensor device tracks an array of environmental variables, including temperature, humidity, oxygen levels, and air pressure. It collects data 24/7 and can send audio and visual alerts if thresholds are breached. Data is sent to the building management system via the existing UHF, CCX, or WiFi network and is also stored onboard for one month in case of a power outage. The system can generate compliance reports when needed.

The Smarter Sensors can be used in hospital operating rooms, sterilization centers, and pharmacies to ensure they meet federal guidelines and best practices for patient safety. The devices also can be used in food service kitchens, data centers, and blood banks where temperature control is critical.

The Coronavirus outbreak brings to light the many factors that impact the health and safety of patients and healthcare workers. Using IoT technologies makes it easier.