Why IoT is mission critical to monitoring all the vital signs of healthcare logistics


By Nick Hoskins, ANZ Country Manager, Cloudera
Thursday, 08 July, 2021


Why IoT is mission critical to monitoring all the vital signs of healthcare logistics

Time delays and inaccurate deliveries can create a logistical headache in the healthcare sector. For healthcare providers, these obstacles may result in reputational damage, scheduling challenges and additional costs. From a patient’s perspective, the implications can range from delays in appointments for repeat prescriptions through to something more serious if supply chain disruption has impacted a chronic care treatment plan. For the most part, such issues can be avoided.

To overcome logistical hurdles, the answer is Supply Chain 4.0. McKinsey has defined this as “the application of the Internet of Things… the use of advanced analytics [and] big data in supply chain management: place sensors in everything, create networks everywhere, automate anything, and analyse everything to significantly improve performance and customer satisfaction”.

Supply Chain 4.0 is the interconnection of all parts of the supply chain, which improves demand forecasting and supply replenishment. This way pharmacies can avoid running out of medicine, for example, with notifications sent to the supplier when a product needs to be reordered as soon as it is taken off the shelf.

IoT continues to transform businesses as developing technology and inter-connected devices generate real-time analytics. This gives organisations the chance to improve customer experience and streamline logistic demands.

According to Machina Research global market forecasts, by the end of 2024 nearly 25 billion connections will be established, which means more data will be generated from monitored devices, equipment and the overall environment in which they exist.

Increased operational efficiency comes from connected devices streaming and assessing data in real time. This is the solution to a better managed supply chain, and it avoids disruption. It is a gateway to staying up to date with equipment and infrastructure, redefining supply and demand, and allows organisations to respond to changing needs.

The healthcare sector can turn to IoT, big data and machine learning to power research, develop new treatments and improve existing ones, and it can also take the pain out of logistical failures.

Recent news reports have highlighted the challenges faced by some GP practices with receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. At one practice, a faulty temperature-reading device forced the cancellation of appointments while staff dedicated time and resources to determine whether the vaccines were safe to be administered to patients. In this instance, the practice struggled to get answers to simple questions, such as whether the transport company’s cold chain had failed. After the practice had cancelled all its bookings, it was advised that the vaccines were safe to use — the device reading the temperature was faulty, and fortunately there had not been a cold chain breach.

Connected devices help overcome communication breakdowns, as they can pinpoint errors in real time, without delay. In this instance, live data streaming would have indicated the slightest change in temperature conditions, indicating a need to take preventative measures.

Maximising value with a data platform

In the past, organisations have relied on data making its way into a data warehouse or data lake before meaningful analysis can occur. Some have adopted separate tools for driving insights from streamed data.

The disadvantage with this approach is that it creates integration challenges and yet another silo. One solution is to utilise a platform that provides ingestion, transformation, query and predictive analytics capabilities that can be accessed by a single pane of glass and supports different cloud environments and edge computing.

The right platform will be able to capture and process data locally or move it to the cloud, depending on what makes the most sense. For instance, hundreds or up to thousands of ‘edge agents’ can be deployed to edge devices to manage them from one single location and streamline operations. The right partner will enable you to collect and process streaming data so you can react immediately to events, analyse data for future research and optimise processes to avoid common challenges.

The importance of any cloud

On-premises infrastructure can lack the elasticity to accommodate spikes in data workloads, and this can slow down an organisation’s ability to drive understanding at the desired rate. However, today it’s likely that an organisation will use multiple cloud vendors and run operations via a combination of public and private cloud, data centre and legacy systems.

Using a hybrid cloud infrastructure ensures healthcare providers have scalability and flexibility with their data storage and analytics. This is mission critical when generating large volumes of patient data and needing to quickly make sense of it. Modern cloud technologies like an enterprise data cloud provide the speed and flexibility that healthcare practitioners demand, while also delivering the peace of mind, security and data governance that the IT team needs.

Improving the effectiveness of the healthcare supply chain

A successful supply chain includes an agile demand forecast. By leveraging all data sources and advanced predictive analytics, healthcare organisations can transform demand forecasting into logistics planning. This can be achieved by analysing data from numerous data sources, as well as external sources such as market trends, weather, public holidays and more.

An agile, demand forecast underpins everything that makes a logistics plan more robust. Information from connected devices informs a distribution plan, and it allows it to build a picture of demand on medical supplies.

An informed supply chain is a connected supply chain, which results in better services at all levels of the medical sector. The medical sector relies on a stable and regular logistics program, and Supply Chain 4.0 is the answer to overcoming logistical, medical hurdles.

Nick Hoskins is the Country Manager for Cloudera Australia and New Zealand. His charter is to expand Cloudera’s customer base and help organisations realise the measurable benefits of a modern platform for machine learning and analytics, on-premise or in the cloud.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/zapp2photo

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