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In September 2016, a team at the BioPharma Ambition hackathon developed a new IoT system for streamlining bed management in hospitals. The team, made up of Eoin Ó hÓbáin, Glen Carter, Lye Ogunsanya, Amr Dawood, Wael Rashman and Ramy Shoosha, have continued to work on the solution, which they dubbed iBed. In advance of the National Health Expo on Feb. 14, we spoke to project co-ordinator Lye Ogunsanya about iBed and the team’s future plans for this healthcare innovation.

Why did you decide to tackle hospital bed management during the MIT healthcare hackathon?

Initially our idea revolved around improving the patient experience in a hospital. We were thinking of putting that responsibility in the hands of patients with an app they could use, but we quickly realised that a patient’s hospital experience is really in the hands of the healthcare practitioners, not themselves, and that the best patient experience in a hospital is the shortest experience necessary. Putting the efficiency of a hospital in focus allowed us to really identify the problems we can solve. iBed’s inception arose from identifying those problems and using the skills and experiences of the team to come up with the solutions we’ve created today.

Why is this topic important to you?

We just hate inefficiency. Every year people talk about the trolley crisis and the lack of beds. After thorough research into the main problems in the healthcare industry, it became very clear to us that inefficiency in bed management is a huge problem that is resulting in poor healthcare, prolonged suffering, deterioration of patient conditions and, in some cases, even death that was preventable with better care. We read about the case of an elderly woman who was left on a trolley for two days, and we knew that we had to do something to change this situation we find the healthcare system in today. We believe that we can make a big impact on this country’s health service.

Give me an overview of the goal of iBed and how it works.

iBed is two parts, a database that supplies up to the minute information about the status of every bed in a hospital and an interface at every bed so staff can supply these updates with ease. The interface contains a card reader and can identify staff ID cards e.g. nurses, doctors, cleaners. Based on the staff member ID and the current status, the system will update the status of the bed.

For example, a patient is assigned a bed on arrival to the hospital. A nurse escorts the patient and uses her card to change the bed status from empty to occupied. A little while later the patient is discharged. When the patient leaves, a doctor or nurse uses their card to change the bed status to “requires cleaning.” The database adds the bed to list of beds that require cleaning so cleaning staff know up to the minute when and where to clean beds. After the bed is cleaned and ready for reuse, a staff member updates its status using their ID card and the Bed Manager know right away that the bed is available again.

The objective of iBed to supply the most amount of information with the smallest possible effort. Our goal is to make something that’s second nature to use and loved by all who use it.

Why was Sigfox a good fit for the solution?

VT Networks introduced Sigfox at the MIT hackathon. It was the first I’d heard of anything like it. I knew it was a game changer and I just had to play with it (hackathons are for fun, after all).

With Sigfox’s low power consumption and network coverage, iBed is incredibly portable. It works anywhere, off a battery that doesn’t need to be charged for years. iBed can be strapped to a bed and start working with next to no setup. The cost for installation and maintenance is tiny, which is a big win for hospitals.

Do you have future plans for the concept?

We want to see iBed on every bed in the HSE, including aftercare facilities. Right now, the plan is to develop the product alongside nurses, doctors and healthcare staff. We want to make something people actually use.

We’d like to launch some further developed prototypes of the system and subject them to criticism from the people who would be using them. Then it’s a matter of continuous improvements that are practical and necessary. In time, we would like to see a system that is more self-sufficient and easily implantable into any healthcare operation, and perhaps other industries too. We’re progressing and the future looks bright.

How do you see IoT improving health care in the future? 

IoT has this great potential to speed up the every day. Doctors will be able to see patients’ history through their fitbits and smartwatches. Medical supplies will have smart labels to alert if they’ve been contaminated. Stockrooms will perform their own inventory checks. The IoT will provide information that lets us make the right decisions faster — a critical aspect of the health sector.

Want to find out more about iBed? Email project co-ordinator Lye Ogunsanya.

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