How hospitals can harness the power of big data to secure a giant leap forward in water temperature monitoring by cleverly siting IoT hardware devices that transmit data to a secure and dedicated cloud-based management portal, such as the LinkThru system from Cistermiser.
We live in a world of big data and it offers something valuable for businesses of all kinds – the ability to monitor the real-time status of systems and equipment. It is helping those NHS Trusts which have already adopted it to make significant gains across the board. However, to make it work, managers must combine it with the correct IT systems and processes. That is a prospect which is putting some Trusts off. But systems now exist tailored to the needs of healthcare which are certainly accessing a wealth of opportunities. The challenge for operators is to see exactly what they can do and to quantify the return on investment.
Monitoring Water Temperature
Having an effective view of the current water temperature has been shown to be an effective weapon in the battle against water borne bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and diseases like legionellosis. If temperatures stray into so-called danger zones, bacteria can flourish and infection can spread. In 2013, Basildon hospital was fined £350,000 after two patients died in an outbreak of legionnaires disease. During the case, it was revealed that the hospital had been battling risks from the disease for more than fifteen years, during which time it had spent more than £3 million. The hearing found that shower heads and thermostatic valves had not been properly cleaned, after the budget for cleaning had been cut. An attempt to control water temperatures with super-heated pipes may have backfired after the pipes inadvertently heated cooler water. Bacteria can proliferate in a temperature range between 20°C and 45°C. The super heating of pipes was intended to maintain stored water above the top-rated temperature, but this might also have brought colder water into the temperature danger zone.
This is a prime example of how things can go wrong. The budget for cleaning had been cut resulting in more expenditure elsewhere as the hospital battled to arrest the spread of the disease. The attempts to effectively burn it out of existence by heating water backfired because of one simple thing – a lack of data. It was not noticed that temperatures were out of range and so the problem could not be addressed.
Big Data – Big Challenge
This is where data comes into its own. The challenge is for managers to have sensors on the pipes which can deliver real time information on temperature. Existing processes in which temperatures are measured and recorded by hand are slow and inaccurate. It is difficult to know for certain that temperatures are safe 100% of the time. When that’s the case, a hospital will always be at risk as in the example of Basildon.
To capture those data readings, hospitals need two things: sensor technology which can accurately and reliably record the temperature of water and a data analytics platform capable of delivering real time readouts. The benefits are enormous.
Managers will receive real time information on the temperature of the water. They can instantly record whether it remains 100% safe and raise an alarm if it strays into the danger area. It creates a valuable data trail which can be used to demonstrate compliance if an outbreak of infection were to occur. Managers can show that they have complied with their obligations by managing temperatures and taking appropriate action when problems occur.
Equally, they can make the process of managing temperatures less arduous and expensive. As things stand, hospitals must perform laborious manual inspections; visual checks are still required to assess things like the physical condition of pipework, corrosion and cleanliness, but an IoT monitoring system allows some of the laborious tasks like taking measurements of water temperatures to be automated. Using staff to manually record water temperatures is out of date and expensive. Crew are routinely deployed when there is no need.
The Power of Data
Data analytics can avoid that necessity. It can constantly monitor the condition of water and raise an alarm if an issue arises. It allows hospitals to take prompt remedial action and address issues before they become critical. This also means that they can reduce the number of man hours they dedicate to the process. An IoT monitoring system raises an alarm only when there is an exception to be checked. This avoids swamping the user with unmanageable volumes of data, but full reports can be drawn off at any time, for example, for presentation to a regulator.
LinkThru from Cistermiser is specifically tailored to the healthcare system and pre-programmed with appropriate HSE guidelines. It uses these to issue an alarm quickly and compile ongoing data. It’s a best of both worlds system –one which acts as the guardian, telling humans when there is a problem, and storing detailed information for as and when it is needed, at which time their system can quickly produce a report.
LinkThru consists of three elements:
This is, then, a good model for the future which holds tremendous potential for the water temperature monitoring and infection control.
But… and there is often a “but”. The use of IoT cloud computing will inevitably be controversial. The value of data is its ability to deliver insights and reports which would not previously have been possible – but it also arguably creates a weakness. The more data that is transmitted across multiple partners with shared security responsibilities, the greater its vulnerability. Managers will have to harness data without being controlled by it and introduce it in the correct way. If they can successfully implement advanced IoT technology they will undoubtedly save money, improve performance and make hospitals a safer place to be.
For more information about IoT monitoring from Cistermiser, please visit www.linkthru.com