The health sector is evolving IoT technology traditionally used in the supply chain for their own purposes, leading to new use cases, according to Zebra Technologies APAC senior technical director Wayne Harper.

“Zebra has been playing for quite a while with patient, medicine and specimen tracking, which uses similar technology to the traditional supply chain space,” he said.

While location awareness of product and person is a core functionality that Zebra has offered to its customers for a long time, Harper observes that the health care industry’s use of Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) goes beyond traditional types of use cases.

When it comes to patient tracking, Zebra uses sensor wristbands that keep track of the time a patient spends at different procedural points in a hospital.

This makes it possible to track how long people have been waiting in various areas for treatment, or even how long since they were admitted, and some of this information can be passed back to the patient.

“What we’re finding – and studies have also shown - is that if a patient can see how long they’ve been in a waiting room for, they are less panicky and their anxiety levels have gone down,” Harper said.

Hospitals can also use the data to gain insight into waiting times, develop metrics for accepted wait times depending on the severity of patient’s reason for admission, and dynamically allocate more staff, if required.

Harper said that this digital check-in can also extend beyond the walls of the hospital itself and into the ambulances that bring the patients in.

“If you think about the first time an ambulance officer treats a patient on the side of the street, they can link a smart wristband to that patient and say ‘OK, I’m checking blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate’, and that information is then available upon arrival at the hospital,” Harper said.

Such information could provide emergency room staff with a clear history of the ambulance officer’s actions prior to admission, thereby streamlining treatment and care for the patient once on-site.

According to Harper, the exciting thing about these types of systems is that the technology is already here, and that the customers are working with Zebra to find new and innovative ways to make the most of them.