Video technology is changing the healthcare industry
Healthcare reform in Australia is driven by many factors, not least of which is cost per capita.
According to a 10-year projection from the Department of Treasury, the Commonwealth Government’s spending (per person) on health is set to rise from $2800 in 2014–15 to $3400 in 2024–25, under current policy settings. Some projections see state governments using up to 50% of their budgets on health by 2030 to fund the running of public hospitals. Additionally, according to the government’s most recent report, real health expenditure is growing at just under 5% per annum — outstripping its GDP.1
To compound the issue, the government is becoming increasingly aware that it’s not just about the money. The health workforce challenges that we face from an increasing and ageing population will lead Australia to require an additional 120,000 nurses and over 400,000 aged-care workers. This expanded workforce will put additional challenges on healthcare leadership and test the industry’s capacity to manage and innovate in new models of care.2
In the face of such an increase in demand, governments and healthcare providers in Australia are turning to technology to bring efficiencies and improve patient care.
In fact, this is happening across all industries, with organisations everywhere looking to harness new technologies to help them do things better and at lower cost. Video technology, which already exists right across the healthcare spectrum, is one area that can be harnessed to bring much greater functionality to an existing solution.
Moving back a step, look at the basic premise of a security network. Due to the evolution of technology in this space, a corporation with a large office complex no longer needs an army of security guards to keep it secure 24 hours a day. Instead, a video management system using analytics software powered by AI can do the same job by monitoring thousands of cameras simultaneously. The system can recognise anomalies — from intruders, to fires, to suspect packages — then highlight a particular video feed for further investigation by a human. A job for many has become a job for one, but more importantly, it can also be done more effectively.
While security seems a natural application for this sort of technology, it is also catching the eye of healthcare providers. Such video management systems can be programmed in countless different ways and can also learn over time, becoming more accurate and more useful. It’s not difficult to imagine how this type of power could be applied to a great number of scenarios in the healthcare industry.
For instance, nursing is renowned as being one of the toughest jobs around, with many patients to care for and constant demands on a nurse’s time. Video technology has the potential to notify nurses if a patient’s dressings have not been changed when they should have been, or if a bed-bound patient needs assistance.
If an elderly person falls over it can be very serious. In a care home setting, if a patient falls when few staff are on duty, or when staff are rushed off their feet, there is also a chance they might not be seen quickly. Video technology can be trained to recognise when someone falls — distinguishing the movement from someone lying down on a bed or sitting on a chair — then is able to alert staff and direct them to the right location.
As well as helping medical practitioners improve patient care, video analytics can also help increase efficiency.
For instance, by analysing human behaviour at different locations at different times of the day, analytics can improve staffing levels by providing accurate information about where staff are being posted versus where the greatest amount of activity or need is. This can help managers post staff exactly where they’re needed, making the best use of resources. The same sort of information can even help managers improve emergency procedures.
Similarly, with hygiene such an important factor in hospitals, video analytics can monitor traffic and notify staff if toilet facilities need to be cleaned before they are scheduled to be.
Video technology’s ability to identify objects means it can also be valuable in helping to keep tabs on the location of expensive equipment, which can be especially difficult to keep track of when facilities rely heavily on temporary staff.
To ensure pharmaceuticals are only handled by the right people, systems can use facial recognition to track access — or even control it when paired with an access control management system. For instance, a camera would recognise when an approved person approached a secure room or cabinet and grant them access, while non-approved personnel or members of the public would remain locked out.
While there are clearly many potential uses for this advanced video technology, there are questions around the cost-benefit ratio for healthcare providers. While there are many different pieces of hardware and software that can be employed in a video management solution, at varying costs, most people are unaware that much of a building’s existing security infrastructure can be used to perform many of these higher-value tasks.
For instance, the existing network of cables — which is usually expensive and time-consuming to install — can potentially be used. An open-source video management software (VMS) will also allow products made by different manufacturers, such as cameras and audio, to be linked up to new elements such as analytics software.
Video surveillance used to be employed simply to record evidence or act as a deterrent, with many cameras looking down empty halls or at the back of closed doors. Today, video technology is no longer just an absorbed cost. The examples discussed here are only a few ways the healthcare industry could harness the capabilities of video, which is already being applied in other industries across the region, and the potential is limited only by the boundaries of our imagination.
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