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How IoT is Revolutionizing Medical Device Field Service
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any internet enabled device which is not used to directly access the web - such as smartphones, personal computers etc. Everything from refrigerators and coffee makers to cars and clothing can be IoT enabled, but smart devices are more ingrained than in simple gadgets.
While the focus for IoT implementation has thus far largely been on home and leisure equipment, its move into city infrastructure marks a shift in the way internet-enabled devices are viewed - not simply as extra functionality for gadgets, but as integral components in how human society is run.
Smart devices can now tell city workers which skips are full and need emptying, or whether pressure has dropped in a gas main - indicating a leak - and then automatically arrange for the appropriate service agent to attend the issue.
(Image source: fieldpoint.net)
Data scientists estimate that by 2020 there will be over 20 billion IoT devices installed. Most of these devices will clearly be applied to consumer products, but a significant number - over seven million - will be used commercially. And, while not all will have field service applications, many will - and nowhere does this have the potential to be more disruptive and critical than in the medical device industry.
From Reactive to Active
At present, medical device field service must take a break-fix approach to problems. In an IoT free world, a medical practitioner needs to notice a device isn't functioning as it should before they contact the appropriate field service department who will then dispatch an engineer/technician to attend to it.
However, with medical devices fitted with IoT sensors, field service agencies can receive constant and real-time status reports from all equipment they're responsible for. Alerts can then be set for when devices fall outside of acceptable parameters, and technicians can be automatically dispatched to address the issue - all before medical practitioners even become aware of a problem.
(Image source: servicemax.com)
Not only will this result in happier clients, but it also means that small problems can be addressed before they become larger issues. This will save time and money, yes - but also lives, as IoT sensor reporting can prevent critical medical equipment from failing completely.
Software can be updated, and issues diagnosed and even repaired remotely thanks to IoT - potentially avoiding the need for dispatching a technician altogether.
With many field service industry experts predicting a major role for wearable technology in the future, combined with predictions for the proliferation of IoT-enabled devices, the potential for remote diagnosis and repair is even greater. Being able to diagnose and potentially repair an issue from a smartwatch or phone would represent a true paradigm shift for the field service industry.
The Role of the Technician
Without IoT-enabled medical devices, when issues are reported, an engineer needs to be dispatched to diagnose the source of the problem before any repairs could be attempted. However, as medical devices are installed with IoT technology that can report their status to digital networks in real-time, this aspect of the technician role should be greatly reduced.
Technicians adopting a procedural approach to repairs, as opposed to diagnosing ambiguous malfunctions, will significantly reduce the time required for individual repairs, and therefore the cost and interruption to clients.
(Image source: philips.com)
While this approach will likely have implications on the level of skill technicians are required to have in order to carry out their jobs, it will also result in new roles being created. A requirement for technicians skilled in the diagnosis and repair of issues which may occur with the sensors and other hardware which makes IoT connectivity possible will emerge - creating new career opportunities.
The Revenue Stream
IoT-enabled infrastructure reporting to field service personnel also has the knock-on effect of increasing revenue for all sides of the interaction. Not only in seizing the opportunities presented by emerging technologies - such as the maintenance of the equipment used in revolutionary breakout treatments - but also in businesses with existing clients.
Practitioners will be more satisfied with the service, as the shift to being able to predict potential issues and act before they become a major problem will result in less downtime - meaning less interruption to their ability to deliver treatment. Patients will also be more satisfied as their treatment will be delivered more consistently with fewer complications arising from malfunctioning medical devices.
Satisfied clients will have a greater chance of being retained, and be more likely to recommend IoT-enabled field service agencies to fellow healthcare organizations - leading to fresh business opportunities.
As already discussed, the optimization of diagnostic processes will reduce the time needed by technicians on each job. This will lead to more callouts being completed during the working day - resulting in reduced per-job costs, and a more streamlined and efficient business model.
IoT technology allows connected devices to automatically report issues to field service agencies. However, IoT also empowers medical devices to be able to communicate with one another.
(Image source: cyssa.com)
By breaking down the physical barriers between the components of a system, you allow individual objects to coordinate with and account for one another - enhancing their collective performance. Field service technicians will be able to use this integration to create a complete view of connected devices and systems - allowing for holistic analysis and the optimization of networks.
With so many medical devices needing to communicate with one another to function, this integration is especially critical in the healthcare industry.
IoT technology is ideally placed to revolutionize the way the medical device field service industry carries out business. From diagnosis and repair to new revenue opportunities, IoT is well on its way to streamlining and optimizing medical device field service work on every level.