Florida Hospital Exec on ‘Internet of Things’ Learnings

By Scott Kirsner |  June 11, 2015

At the living lab, “we have patients and staff badged with a real-time location system, so we can collect data from their movement and workflow. The equipment they’re using is also tagged, so we can start to do analytics on the back-end.”

Employees did at first see the RFID badges as “Big Brother,” Simmons admits. But “we gave everyone access to their own data. They can pull it up at any time, see what we see, question it. That has been a key part in keeping [staffers] coming along with us.”

The investment level in the real-time location system totals “hundreds of thousands of dollars” so far, Simmons says, noting that “we haven’t scaled to the whole system yet.”

What elements have been rolled out more widely? The ability to put badges on staff to gather data about how they work in the space, which is useful in “designing the right workflow” when Florida Hospital builds new facilities, Simmons says. One example was finding new ways to use wasted space at the back of a floor, since the staffers all wanted to be at a desk at the front. (See the slide below. Click to enlarge.)

Tagging equipment has been a way to help reduce loss, and also to see how often it is being used — whether a particular site has too much or too few of an item like an infusion pump.

Challenges of rolling out Internet of Things technology: “How to fit it into existing culture, [and explain] why are we doing it. How do you align people and process, and get IT on board?” The IT group, Simmons mentions, “were used to dictating the roadmap,” and she needed to not only get their buy-in, but also bring in additional IT staffers to support the initiative.

What IoT technologies haven’t they deployed? “We’re wary of stuff that just adds cost and complexity.” A key focus, she says, is “can it integrate with something we [already] have today.” What’s next? Focusing on digital health technology outside the walls, to monitor people not just when they’re ill “but before they’re sick, outside the walls of the hospital,” Simmons says.

As an example, Simmons says they’re now exploring ways to gather data from technologies worn by patients, like “bionic foot sensors” being developed by startup Boogio. (See the video below.)

Florida Hospital is seeking to reduce costs by 30 percent, so payback time on technology investments is a key area of focus. Hospital administrators can now monitor what’s happening in operating rooms in real-time, to see how quickly they’re readied for the next patient, and what utilization rates are like. (See the slide below. Click to enlarge.)

Phase I of the hospital’s IoT deployment was about tagging equipment, monitoring maintenance, and understanding staff activity, Simmons says. Phase II is about “how do we start to integrate and build things in,” working with equipment manufacturers to add tracking and analytic capabilities to new products, rather than simply tagging them after purchase.