The Internet of Things (IoT) is already having an impact on healthcare, and is likely to have a greater one over the next few years, especially as healthcare resources get tighter. One of the companies that is helping to deliver impact is FlexITy, a Canadian firm specialising in healthcare solutions. Taking the view that improved care is only possible through improved communication, it focuses particularly on new ways to support communication between patients, clinicians, families and other stakeholders. Through strategic partnerships with vendors like Cisco, it is able to offer networks which integrate voice, video, data, and mobility products and apps, to improve collaboration, and enable increased staff mobility and availability.
Credit Valley Hospital is one of three sites run by Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Canada, offering a full range of acute care. Recognising that new buildings opening in 2005 and 2011 were supported by an increasingly aging and out-of-date IT network, CVH started working with FlexITy in 2009. Drawing on FlexITy’s strategic partnership with CISCO, they now have a new network which allows them to link to their old telephone systems, but use new apps and services based on a core infrastructure which is reliable, always available and secure. The system also has built-in potential to expand as new facilities are opened. There are plans to provide immersive video and distance learning, and better communications, including improved staff mobility. The ability for staff to communicate whether they are on site, or at community service sites, will vastly improve patient services.
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital, working with around 7,000 disabled children each year from across the world. It is proud of its state-of-the-art facilities, and has been working with FlexITy since 2007 on its communications network. As with CVH, the network is based on CISCO’s Medical Grade Network platform, and provides for data, voice and wireless communications. In practice, this means that the network is always available, and provides a platform for a host of patient-related apps. This makes sharing of data and ideas much simpler, because everything can be accessed in the same place, using a single device. It makes working together much more efficient. It also provides a base from which to expand services, as more apps become available, including infection control and patient monitoring systems, and improved wireless access, meaning the hospital’s systems are future-proofed, at least for the next few years.
The Sault Area Hospital is one of the top hospitals in Canada, with state-of-the-art facilities that opened to patients in 2011 following a merger between two smaller hospitals. The board promised that the changes would reduce the cost of services, improve collaboration between professionals and patients, and improve results. In some ways, it is easier to engineer state-of-the-art technology into a new-build hospital or facility, as it is part of the design from the start, so FlexITy have been able to link everything together: systems, devices, and apps. The new network is again on Cisco’s platform, with data, voice and video, and various apps and services being available for patients, clinicians and administrators. The network is available anytime, via secure wireless or wired access, facilitating communication. All the hospital systems are linked up, including physical security such as lighting, and there is remote access to video collaboration resources from the theatres, so that surgeons can collaborate with colleagues remotely during operations. Patients have telephones, entertainment, internet access, lighting control and the ability to call a nurse from their bedside, from the same terminal that is used by clinicians to access patient notes.
Woodstock Hospital is a community hospital in Oxford County, Ontario, with 178 beds, providing primary care to a population of 55,000 and specialist care to over 100,000 in the county. Another brand new facility, it has also built state-of-the-art facilities, with technology to match. Like Sault, Woodstock wanted to improve patient care, improve collaboration, and reduce costs. Woodstock also uses a secure Cisco network to run multiple services and apps, facilitating communication between patients, clinicians and administrators, and including patient bedside terminals for telephone and entertainment systems. Staff can also access the system remotely and wirelessly, and the network also supports several patient-monitoring systems. The built-in future proofing means the system won’t become obsolete any time soon.
Lessons for health administrators
FlexITy’s clever use of strategic partnerships has ensured that it can provide integrated networks and systems which actively support better communication between patients, clinicians and administrators. This capability makes it look like an obvious option for anyone who is keen to use improved collaboration to both improve services and outcomes, and reduce costs.