With health spending projected to grow at an average rate of 5.8% from 2012-2022, an increasing number of patients will need more healthcare and expect better service. With this trend, more hospitals will have to look for ways to eliminate waste and increase efficiency to reduce operating costs. The focus on healthcare is bigger than ever and there is room for disruption. Some things that are already changing up the industry include healthcare apps and wearables for fitness and healthcare professionals. There are already more than 40,000 apps categorized as health and fitness or medical mobile apps in the App store alone and additional hardware like wearables (FitBit, Jawbone, etc.) for people to track their health. In addition, with Apple’s HealthKit and Health app, people will get better visibility into managing their health by seeing vital information such as heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar, cholesterol, and more all on their phones. This is all great for consumers, but what about hospitals and other healthcare organizations? How can they increase efficiency and reduce or eliminate waste? This is where contextual technology and solutions come into play. Context-aware healthcare solutions have the ability to enhance the quality of patient care, increase efficiency, and reduce costs for healthcare companies.
Back in January 2005, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics or ERCIM published a document about how scientists at University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid were developing an open infrastructure for business application services across mobile and fixed networks in the field of telemedicine. The formal definition of telemedicine is "the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient's clinical health status". It includes applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, and other telecommunications technology. The project, CASCOM (Context-Aware Business Application Service Coordination in Mobile Computing Environments), was intended to address several challenges including technological and domain constraints. According to the document, scientists were developing value-added supportive infrastructures for business application services that mobile workers and users across mobile and fixed networks could use. CASCOM combined intelligent agent technology, semantic Web services, peer-to-peer, and mobile computing for intelligent peer-to-peer mobile service environments. The primary field that the CASCOM architecture was supposed to address was telemedicine and on-the-go coordination of pervasive healthcare services, but it can be applicable to a variety of other business scenarios. As one can observe, people have already been coming up with context-aware business applications since at least 2005 and experimenting with applying context to technology since the term context-awareness in computing was introduced in 1994.
In the present, Cisco has created a context-aware healthcare solution to enhance patient care, increase staff efficiency, and reduce capital and operational costs. The solution allows hospitals to integrate contextual information such as location, temperature, and presence information into the clinical workflow to increase staff efficiency, streamline inventory management, and improve patient care. In addition, mobile assets and staff can be quickly located to increase the efficiency of resources and storage conditions can be monitored to reduce waste and improve satisfaction among hospital patients. A context-aware healthcare solution has several benefits including:
Better management of medical equipment and hospital beds: Know the current status of all healthcare equipment to improve operational efficiency and patient care.
Improved management of patients and control of assets: Context-aware services help locate and track patients who require special care by issuing patient location alerts if patients go beyond designated areas. Hospitals can also keep track of equipment that will automatically notify the facility if it enters or exits patient loading and unloading areas.
More visibility into bottlenecks and workflow coordination: Easily see the status of medical staff and enhance staff responsiveness to accelerate patient treatment. Specialists can be easily located and re-routed to address any emergencies.
Better monitoring of environmental conditions: Healthcare organizations can reduce waste by monitoring environmental conditions such as room temperature and temperatures of medication storage areas. Alerts can be sent out if something abnormal occurs so that employees can easily remedy the situation.
Enhanced security management and regulatory compliance: Cisco Network Assurance Solutions allow the integration of contextual information such as location or status of network security events and rogue devices to improve decision-making and speed up reaction time to patch up security threats or network performance issues.
In addition to Cisco, other organizations and individuals are creating context-aware applications and solutions for the enterprise that can be applied to the healthcare industry. With a multitude of healthcare and wellness apps available today, adding in context can make them even better. Customized mobile apps can also be created and integrated with context to help healthcare organizations reach their business goals. Developers that use context aware platforms such as ContextHub can enhance healthcare apps for consumers and healthcare organizations by building in contextual capabilities into these apps. Imagine being able to increase operational efficiency and better manage patients and your own health just by adding context to a healthcare mobile application. The future is closer than you think.
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