Smart hospitals can ease the impact of understaffing

The National Health Service, and indeed most other healthcare systems throughout the world, are struggling to cope. Hospitals have endured years of underfunding, poor management, an aging population, and more recently a pandemic, and to make matters worse, it is not proving easy to find the doctors, nurses and facilities management staff that are so vital to patient care.

October’s NHS figures show that there are 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England, with one in ten nursing posts unfilled on acute wards in London and one in five nursing posts empty on mental health wards in the south-east. Of course, this has many causes, from Brexit’s impact on immigration, to the working conditions endured during the pandemic, to the long-standing poor pay of nurses and auxiliary staff.

Not to mention, the ‘Great Resignation’ – which has affected healthcare staff too. Half of respondents to a recent survey of UK doctors by the British Medical Association said they plan to work fewer hours, with 21% considering leaving the NHS completely. The number of doctors planning to take early retirement is also on the rise.

NHS Trusts are having to function as best they can while severely understaffed – and this has impacted morale, stress levels, and results. It is therefore vital that they employ new digital tools to work more efficiently – and ‘smart hospitals’, sensors, and the Internet of Things, can allow teams to operate more effectively and use their time more wisely.

Dan Teare, Sector Director at mpro5, discusses why new technologies and the right software can ease the impact of understaffing:

“The NHS is employing some seriously innovative tech – such as Faculty’s AI-powered forecasting tool, which was deployed throughout the NHS in March – but not all solutions have to be that cutting edge. ‘Smart hospitals’, powered by the Internet of Things and sensor technologies, and all underpinned by adaptive, real-time software, can enable the NHS to work smarter, not harder; and ultimately be just as efficient with fewer people.

“By utilising an IoT-driven workflow management platform, healthcare staff can easily harvest and unify the data around them; viewing patterns and creating tasks from a centralised platform – viewing real-time data at the touch of a button. Teams can instantly view and act upon this data, rather than fixed, out of date schedules – making any reactive or proactive tasks far more accurate and using peoples’ time more effectively.”

For example, if a sensor on a toilet door has been opened 100 times, then cleaning staff may well need to check it is still functional and clean. Inversely, if they go to clean as their schedule insists, and no one has been in that toilet or even on that floor, it is simply a waste of their time. Viewing these patterns form over time gives you the power to predict more accurately – so your future-facing schedules can be more accurate, and peoples’ time used more efficiently.

Dan continued: “Teams can spend less time worrying about covering for missing staff, and instead can trust that all tasks are being accounted for and covered; improving overall operational effectiveness while leaving no gaps.”

“Ultimately, it is about doing the same with less. Smart buildings, real-time data, and the ability to act upon it, gives hospitals and their staff a better chance at effectively continuing operations – despite any vacancies or absences.”

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