Interview with Ralf Drüge, Managing Director of cibX GmbH
In a time of pandemic, the emergency departments of most hospitals are under intense pressure. Processes can get mixed up, while some systems are stretched to the breaking point. It is easy to lose track of patients, medical devices and rooms. This is where the cibX intelligent IoT solution comes in. Real-time localization and visualization enable safe and up-to-date process optimization.
In this MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, Ralf Drüge talks about the idea behind the central information board and "red zones". He also explains why hospitals and health care facilities can apply the IoT solution as they manage pandemics and highly infectious pathogens like the coronavirus.
Mr. Drüge, how did you come up with the idea to develop the central information board IoT solution?
Ralf Drüge: Our software was initially designed for use in hospital emergency rooms. This setting is inherently at risk of mixing up processes, especially when the emergency room is working under extreme pressure. Nobody is truly able to keep track of where patients are at any given point, who is in need of urgent care, who can wait, or how long patients have already waited for treatment. Ultimately, it is difficult to facilitate good patient flow. That is why we were determined to find a real-time solution. At the end of the day, the Director of Emergency Medicine and the nursing personnel should have a complete overview of the emergency room situation and patients at all times, without needing to make calls and check with colleagues.
How does the solution work?
Drüge: We developed new hardware in collaboration with the University of Münster, which is in the trial period at the moment.
So-called gateways communicate with battery-operated coordinators that are installed in the field. The coordinators record patient ID bracelets and asset tags the moment they come within range. Positioning algorithms then calculate the estimated position based on the received data. The hardware is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 technical standard which defines the operation of low-rate wireless personal area networks.
If patients are in trouble outside of the hospital room, they can press a button on the wristband which triggers an alarm that alerts the staff. Medical devices are also equipped with tags and can be tracked in real-time. The same applies to available spaces, beds, and medical exam equipment. You can also follow patient wait times. What's more, the software solution is a great tool to monitor device maintenance as each device has its own tag with relevant information, including the serial number, last maintenance date and device location. This also applies to hospital bed management and hygiene monitoring.
In the central information board, individual hospital rooms can be marked as well as the positions of devices and patients (right). Patients who require aid can use an alarm button at their wrist band to alert staff.
The central information board divides hospitals and health care facilities into so-called "red zones". How does that work?
Drüge: The software solution gives an overview of all hospital rooms. One click allows you to categorize specific rooms into "red zones", which means an alarm is triggered once an unauthorized person enters the room. This is an automated process that allows staff to instantly see when and where a person enters or leaves an access-controlled area. Medical personnel can also monitor whether the person – for example, someone with dementia – is still inside the building or not.
Why should hospitals and health care facilities use the central information board especially during outbreaks like the current coronavirus pandemic?
Drüge: At the end of the day, software in combination with hardware can only assist in optimizing hospital processes and performance. Many hospital facilities try to use manual tracking systems to improve infection control, which tends to be an error-prone process. Another issue is that patients and visitors wait in lines and are in close contact and proximity with each other. A system that uses bracelets to keep track of patients and their visitors allows hospitals to seamlessly document their location and whereabouts. Hospitals can also turn entire areas into quarantine zones. All devices in these spaces are automatically labeled as highly contaminated, meaning all portable or wearable devices, such as infusion pumps, must not be removed from the area without triggering an alarm. An alarm is also triggered when a patient leaves a quarantine zone.
Products and exhibitors around the connected hospital
How does the central information board differ from a hospital information system (HIS)?
Drüge:HIS systems focus mainly on the administrational needs of a hospital including patient admission, diagnostics and billing. The central information board takes these aspects a step further to include patient tracking, real-time localization, wait times, room management and asset management. Our solution is an update and enhancement of a standard HIS system and makes processes more convenient and personalized. It also improves hospital quality management as it increases the speed of patient care and facilitates automated documentation.
What other developments can we expect from cibX in the near future?
Drüge: We aim to make our software intelligent by adding predictive analysis. All systems would have to be accessible via a single platform and be actively integrated. This would allow medical personnel to track physicians and patients onsite, master room availability and assignments, bed management, and nurse availability – a visualization of current capacity. Health professionals would be able to assess in advance when the hospital capacity has been exhausted. Patients would be automatically updated of present wait times. That is our vision – it would be amazing if we could create a simple graphic overview at the push of a button.
We also plan to delve into hygiene aspects. There are high standards for the preparation of operating room surgical instruments and sheets, for example. However, if we do not know whether medical autoclaves work correctly, we also cannot state whether the sterilization process has been carried out properly. Sensor technology can help gather data pertaining to sterilization temperatures and times in this setting.
Our aim is for hospitals to use our infrastructure to record this data, thus enabling them to assess the technical tools they need and map out processes that can be optimized.
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