RTLS in Healthcare

There’s a new Mr Beacon video interview with HT Snowday, VP of Innovation and Technology Development at Midmark RTLS. Midmark and HT are formerly of Versus Technology who were acquired by Midmark in Aug 2018.

Midmark RTLS uses a combination of infra-red, 433Mhhz RF, WiFi and Bluetooth to provide tracking of healthcare assets, care givers and patients. It allows medical equipment to be located quickly, key things such as IV pumps to be effectively distributed (par levelling) and the location of care staff and patients to be controlled and monitored. The Bluetooth part of Midmark RTLS is used more for wayfinding using powered, static beacons to mark locations. Systems also allow for health workflow processes including self-rooming to reduce waiting and queuing for care.

Healthcare is increasingly being provided at outpatient rather than inpatient treatment. This is leading to more clinics and treatments centres and the need for technical sophistication to efficiently process patients.

No mention was given to other crucial healthcare usecases we have come across at BeaconZone such as tracking (and temperature) of valuable medicines, tracking porters, wheelchairs and wayfinding from the hospital limits to reception areas.

Read about Beacons For Life Sciences

Using iBeacon to Assess Elderly Frailty

There’s a research paper by Thomas Tegou, Ilias Kalamaras, Markos Tsipouras, Nikolaos Giannakeas, Kostantinos Votis and Dimitrios Tzovaras of Information Technologies Institute, Greece on A Low-Cost Indoor Activity Monitoring System for Detecting Frailty in Older Adults.

The paper describes a room-level accuracy indoor localization system, based on Bluetooth RSSI, to assess the frailty in older people.

The implementation used smartphones as detectors:

The researchers identified features to classify degrees of movement between rooms:

The system was able to determine rooms to an accuracy above 93%. The results showed subjects with frailty had distinctive movement patterns that could be identified with high accuracy of 98%.

Read about Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Using Beacons in Healthcare

Russ Sharer, Vice-President of Global Marketing for Fulham, a manufacturer of energy-efficient lighting sub-systems has written an article in Health Estate Journal (pdf) on the use of iBeacons in healthcare.

Russ says it’s often difficult to find life saving equipment in hospitals and many organisations have to compensate by purchasing more equipment than they need. However, in use, equipment still gets misplaced, usually just at the critical time it is needed. He explains how the use of Bluetooth beacons and mesh can solve this problem. The article provides a great introduction to iBeacons and some issues such as the affect of frequency of transmission on battery life.

While the article mentions Bluetooth Mesh and iBeacons, these specific technologies don’t always have to be used. Gateways can be used instead of mesh to allow greater throughput of data. Also, any beacons, not just iBeacons, can be used as it’s usually the MAC address of the beacon that’s used for identification purposes. Using sensor beacons allows further scenarios, for example, monitoring the temperature of expensive medicines.

There are also many more scenarios for the use of beacons in healthcare than are mentioned in the article. Our beacons are being using to track hundreds of dementia patients. We have also been involved in a project to use beacons for navigation in large hospitals. Once there’s a network of beacons in a hospital, it’s possible to add lots of widely varying solutions.

Read About Beacons in Life Sciences

Secure Location Sensing in Healthcare

A research paper recently became available by Paul D. Martin and Michael Rushanan of Harbor Labs, Thomas Tantillo of Johns Hopkins University, Christoph U. Lehmann of Vanderbilt University and Aviel D. Rubin of Johns Hopkins University. The paper, Applications of Secure Location Sensing in Healthcare is part of the Proceedings of the 7th ACM International Conference on Bioinformatics. There are also some associated slides by Michael Rushanan.

The paper considers the use of beacons to track hospital assets and provide for location-based access to patient records. The tracking of hospital assets is an important usecase because staff spend:

“1 hour per shift searching for equipment and the average hospital owns 35,000 inventory SKUs and utilization hovers around 32-48%, with nearly $4,000 of equipment per bed, lost or stolen each year”

The second use, the reading of patient records based on location, is particularly security sensitive. The paper describes an implementation of what they call Beacon+ that builds on iBeacon advertising to make location sensing more secure.

The Beacon+ system uses “monotonically increasing sequence number and message authentication code (MAC)”. This is similar to the (optional) changing id provided by our Sensoro beacons. The concept is also similar to Eddystone-EID that was announced at about the same time this research was ongoing.
The paper discusses using the Translated Midpoint Method rather than trilateration as a method of determining location based on readings of RSSI of multiple beacons. The accuracy turned out to be 1-2 meters in the best case and 9-10 meters in the worst case that produced a better result than trilateration in their specific experimental situation.

As with this and other security sensitive scenarios, the use of changing UUIDs needs Internet access to reconcile ids. Hospital is a suitable case as it can be arranged to have reliable (WiFi) Internet access available. However, in many other scenarios, such as visitor spaces, particularly indoors or when the user is roaming internationally, Internet access isn’t always available. Also, depending on the quality of the Internet connection, a round trip to the server can slow detection response considerably and affect perceived reliability. Hence, secure rolling UUID schemes should only be used as and when security dictates and not as a matter of course.

The paper also mentions:

“There exists an implicit assumption that devices that can verify Beacon+ advertisements are also trusted”

Not all devices can be trusted. Android and iOS devices can easily be rooted/jailbroken and/or be compromised via malware. Hence, secure rolling beacons are only a part of defining a secure solution. As with other secure scenarios such as banking, apps have to make an self-assessment whether they are running on a compromised device.

Wearable Tech for Dementia Patients

Dexigner has a new article on how Mettle and their use of beacons to monitor Dementia Patients. When the patient wanders out of sight the signal is lost and the app alerts the carer by notification and vibration.

mettle

While it’s an interesting piece of design, the companion app is very similar to the usual beacon-based ‘lost luggage’ type of app. In fact, many standard beacons are wearable.

There are also many more health applications waiting to be discovered that make use of the accelerometer, temperature sensor and the buzzer found in some beacons.

Using iBeacons To Prompt You To Do Healthy Things

We like Nag Murty’s tweet where he says…

“Think ibeacons are only for retail? How about using an ibeacon as a health coach”

The Product Hunt web site video shows how he is using beacons to prompt himself to do more healthy things.

Nag doesn’t share how he does this but it’s fairly simple to implement. You can use just about any beacon with AutomateIt on Android or Proximitask on iOS to create a notification when you pass a beacon.