Can IoT healthcare devices help in a pandemic?

As the NHS battle to save thousands of lives across the country, we’re looking to how technology could help. Could IoT healthcare devices be the future of patient care? This blog post looks at some of the LoRaWAN devices available, and how they could benefit the NHS.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen technology take centre stage as we try to continue life as normal. From online PE lessons for kids who aren’t at school, to Zoom conversations with family members; we’re all using the internet more than ever.

LoRaWAN sensors don’t use wifi (so you can save your bandwidth for your video calls and streaming). They use a completely different network. They also use very little data, and very little power. These devices are also relatively affordable.

iot healthcare lorawan medical devices

So how could we use them to develop an IoT healthcare strategy to help the NHS?

1. Emergency buttons for the elderly and vulnerable

COVID-19 has very serious health implications for over 70s and those with existing health conditions. Many of our most vulnerable members of society have been asked to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks.

But how do we check on them? What if they’re unable to get to a phone? Providing those at home with an emergency button that they could push if they needed urgent care could potentially save lives. LoRaWAN technology means that these devices could have a battery life of up to 5 years (based on transmitting data every hour).

2. Asset tracking for medical equipment

One of the biggest issues with the COVID-19 crisis has been lack of ventilators. Manufacturers around the world are scrambling together to produce enough ventilators and respirators to enable our doctors and nurses to care for their patients.

Ventilation equipment is very expensive (£120 per mask and £4,000 per machine, according to 2016 figures from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust). Keeping track of all of these machines using GPS would allow the NHS to find out whether there are unused ventilators available across the country. LoRaWAN asset trackers could also be used to alert staff when a ventilator machine is removed from hospital premises.

3. Parking sensors for ambulance bays

Parking sensors have been developed for smart cities. The sensors detect whether or not a parking space is occupied.

The same technology could be used in an IoT healthcare setting by identifying empty ambulance bays. You could then direct ambulances to the nearest available bay. This could have a huge impact on time-critical emergencies, helping to save lives.

4. Desk sensors adapted for hospital beds

Lack of available beds is an ongoing issue for the NHS. During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen thousands of extra beds provided in emergency hospitals. Having a better picture of where beds are available could help many hospital departments.

Desk sensors have been developed to monitor desk occupancy in a commercial environment. They measure motion, temperature, light and humidity. But they also have a thermopile sensor that can detect body heat. Perfect for patients who aren’t able to move around.

5. Temperature sensors for medical storage

Some medications need to be stored at specific temperatures. Installing temperature sensors in fridges and freezers can alert staff to any changes in temperature. If a fridge door is left open accidentally, an alert will be triggered when the inside of the fridge goes outside the normal temperature range. This could prevent vital supplies from being spoiled, and ensure medication is kept under the right conditions.

There are hundreds of ways that technology can be used for IoT healthcare applications. LoRaWAN technology is so versatile thanks to it’s long battery life, affordability and low data usage. If you’d like more information on how we could help you to develop IoT healthcare solutions, get in touch with our technical team.