How IoT supports connected health and process optimization

David Frumkin, digital business solution architect at CDW, outlines how a comprehensive IoT strategy can help healthcare systems keep up with the rapid development of digital technology.
03:26 PM

Why do healthcare organizations need to think about the Internet of Things? Do they need a strategy?

Organizations do not need to think about the Internet of Things ― they need to think about how they want to transform their business and which transformational path will reap the largest benefit. Path No. 1 is optimization of existing business processes. Path 2 is a complete change in business process. Each path will require efforts in re-engineering the people, processes and technologies that are applied to deliver care.

There is an old saying, “When you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” At CDW, we have a methodology for the development of a long-term strategy for digital transformation that creates a roadmap based on the individual needs of the organization.

1. Start by bringing all stakeholders to the table ― clinical, administrative and IT ― to identify business challenges (such as HCAPHS scores, 30-day readmission, operating costs or reducing clinician stress), and assign dollar values to each of these challenges.

2. Take these challenges and determine what a solution would look like in general terms (for example, a 30-day readmission solution, or the ability to recognize a negative trend in patients’ health and intervene before he or she shows up at the emergency department), and what measurements will be used for success.

3. Evaluate existing capabilities and infrastructure as well as determine what additional technologies are needed. Create a process map of dataflows and workflows that will support the desired outcome.

4. Roll out a pilot program. Measure and adjust until it delivers consistent results, and then move to production.

5.  Repeat this process for all identified challenges and updated challenges.

What are some of the most promising technologies emerging in the healthcare IoT space, and how will they improve connected health?

CDW has seen tremendous growth in technologies in the areas of wearables, mHealth/telemedicine and smart rooms ― all engineered to address the need to provide care outside the institutional walls and to improve the care and safety of patients and seniors.

Wearables will soon have a broad range of form factors (e.g., on your wrist, shoe or clothing) that will have the ability to measure and send to the cloud important physiological data points for evaluation by a decision support technology, which, depending on the trend, may or may not forward to a clinician for review, at which point a telehealth session can be initiated if needed.

mHealth is moving from being a passive collector of data via patient data entry to an active aggregator of data from multiple sources for real-time evaluation. Additionally, a lot of eff ort is being put into utilizing mHealth to engage patients in the management of their disease.

Smart rooms in homes, senior living and hospitals are being developed

1.   to optimize the time an individual can safely and comfortably live at home, relieving the financial pressure on families;

2.   to act as a force multiplier for senior-living operators staff  to ensure the comfort and safety of residents; and

3.   to improve the patient experience in hospital stays, driving up HCAPHS scores and improving safety.

These advances, as well as the rapid development of more forward-leaning technologies in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, will have an immense impact on the quality and delivery of care.

What opportunities exist today for IoT technology to optimize healthcare delivery? What business processes are ripe for improvement, in your view?

Quite simply, you cannot optimize a process you cannot measure, and all processes are able to be measured. Many of the emerging technologies highlighted above are available in a version 1.0-2.0 range and can be applied today. Additionally, there are many ways to drive operating costs out of hospitals through a real-time location system, through the modernization and automation of building systems, and through logistics management optimization.

The real question needs to be asked: When will you start preparing for this future? At the current rate of change, laggards will not flourish.

What advice would you give to a health system looking to create a foundation for both immediate and long-term connected health success?

Start now, start small, don’t go it alone and iteratively improve. We have found that the early adopters have already generated substantial data on operations and are poised to gain benefit from process optimization.

“At CDW, we have a methodology for the development of a long-term strategy for digital transformation that creates a roadmap based on the individual needs of the organization.”


About CDW

CDW Healthcare is a leading provider of technology solutions focused exclusively on serving the healthcare marketplace. Working closely with healthcare organizations nationwide, its customers range from small rural providers to large integrated delivery networks. The dedicat-ed healthcare team leverages the expertise of CDW technology specialists and engineers to deliver best-in-class solutions from data center infrastructure through the point of patient care. For more information, visit