New Scottish sensor technology could help NHS use resources more efficiently
Hospital - Image credit: PA Images
New sensor technology developed in Scotland could be used to create a network to help the NHS monitor how efficiently it is using its physical resources.
Edinburgh-based tech start-up Beringar, working with the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS), has developed a non-intrusive sensor it says could help the health service improve its understanding of how buildings and movable assets such as trolleys and hospital beds are used.
By sending data wirelessly using an internet of things-type network, where smart devices are able to transmit data, it can replace manual methods of measuring and assessing the utilisation of buildings.
The technology is able to accurately count the number of people in a room, check building occupancy levels and identify trends in the ways patients and staff use buildings.
It can also measure temperature, record air quality and monitor CO2 levels.
As the product is developed further, Beringar says it could be used to sense exactly which beds are vacant in a hospital in real time.
Carolyn Botfield, Estates Director at the NHS in England, said it was important to be able to to identify where the NHS is adding value and adapt services to the requirements of the local community.
She said: “The sensor will allow us to achieve real-time feedback on how our buildings are being used, enabling us to make smarter decisions.”
She added that the team had taken into consideration the sensitivities of the environment they were working in by creating a sensor that doesn’t record or identify individuals.
A recent trial of the technology at Loxford Health Centre in Essex the sensors detected empty space that staff thought was in regular use.
More than 160,000 data points were collected during the month-long test, with the sensor counting occupants every 10 seconds and sending the data to a specially designed dashboard.
Mark Sorsa-Leslie, co-founder of Beringar, said: “The NHS spends around a quarter of its budget every year on the provision and management of its buildings, but many rooms and equipment aren’t used to their full potential.
“When NHS health planners want to commission a new service, but can’t see available space in their existing facilities, they might consider leasing or building a new property.
“However, the statistics show that there is a lot of free space in the NHS.
“Having the right data could reveal suitable space they already own in that location, saving a significant amount of money, which could be used to improve direct patient care.”
Dr Stephen Milne, Business Development Manager at CENSIS, said: “Apart from traditional methods, such as clipboards and visitor registration books, property managers have had no real concrete evidence of how their buildings are being used day-to-day.
“Beringar’s device is changing that and presents the NHS, and potentially other organisations, with a suite of information to help them deliver a high-performing estate.
“This project underlines the positive impact the IoT can have, not only in business, but within the services people rely on.”