Exclusive: Using AI to improve healthcare operations

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Kai Bisgwa, VP Sales & Business Development, Security & Safety Things explores how AI-infused smart cameras can be used to boost security.

The introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the field of medicine has already begun to revolutionise the research and development methods and outcomes of critical disease treatments, during a worldwide health crisis. While these high-level breakthroughs trickle down to the healthcare delivery level, AI is already fulfilling a different potential, that of transforming healthcare operations using technologies such as smart cameras and IoT platforms to better manage field level operations and realise additional efficiencies for a healthier bottom line.

Overwhelmed with cases yet injured by the loss of routine and elective, higher-margin patients, hospitals, elder-care facilities and other segments of the healthcare industry meant to provide care to the most vulnerable have also been focused on mitigating pandemic related risks and ensuring the overall safety and security of patients and staff. Decision-makers for healthcare facilities have been tasked with finding solutions to manage patient occupancy levels, ensure compliance in usage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and promote social distancing in administrative and other non-patient care areas of their facility.

Smart surveillance solutions, which employ AI-infused video analytics in the form of apps, are increasingly being used in acute, post-acute and long-term care settings as an efficient way to implement these pandemic measures. This technology can provide both short-term relief and long-term flexibility due to the camera’s ability to simultaneously run multiple analytics – such as PPE compliance, occupancy management and other analytics – all on a single smart camera. These can include patient fall detection, analytics to spot potential spills, blocked exits detection, or smoke and fire detection that can help healthcare facilities better optimise staffing resources by automating alerts to these potential hazards. New apps can be added at any time as facility needs change – existing spaces have new uses, facilities remodel or expand or identify new metrics to track which can provide valuable operational data.

As requirements for safety and security in healthcare become increasingly complex, due to stricter legal and pandemic regulations, AI-enabled smart cameras can help healthcare organisations increase patient and employee confidence, reduce risk-related costs and help to optimise operational processes.

Smart surveillance to detect fallen patients or residents

Every healthcare facility is required to reduce the risk of patient harm from falls. Smart surveillance cameras can reduce these occurrences by detecting spills when they occur, enabling staff to take immediate action and preventing a potential fall. Fall detection enables IoT cameras to monitor and analyse the behaviour of patients, visitors and staff in real-time, while using AI video analytics to automatically detect whether a person stands upright, lies on the floor or remains seated. Using these analytics, the camera will alert staff in the case of unusual behaviour – making every walk from bed to toilet much safer, especially for elderly and disabled patients.

Improved patient experience through increased privacy and reduced waiting times

Many countries have strict legal requirements for video surveillance to protect the privacy and security of patient health information. AI-enabled smart cameras can help improve patient privacy. As sensitive health data is often displayed on computer screens, smart video analytics can employ privacy mask applications that can hide a configurable set of objects, such as laptops, keyboards and people in video. This also allows for enhanced monitoring of elderly and dementia patients in their rooms, without violating their privacy.

One of the most common pain points in any hospital is waiting times at office receptions and emergency rooms. When many people arrive at the same time, bottlenecks occur, which affects overall customer experience and may require the enforcement of social distancing and occupancy management. Intelligent video surveillance with people counting and queue management applications can help navigate these challenges by automatically notifying staff once occupancy limits are reached or queues grow rapidly. This helps appropriate actions to be taken in a timely manner and steer staff to keep waiting times at a minimum.

Increase general safety, security and improve building performance

The general hospital environment is burdened with complex inherent risks, not the least of which is the prevention and early detection of smoke and fire, which can cause devastating damage in healthcare facilities where many people are gathered in confined spaces or are bed-ridden. Security cameras equipped with AI video analytics can provide 24/7 surveillance, allowing security managers to detect hazards early without having to constantly monitor video streams. Applications enable cameras to analyse video data and distinguish dangerous from harmless situations, for example, menacing smoke from cigarette smoke, or sunlight from fire, reducing false alarms.

Industry experts estimate that theft costs hospitals in the US upwards of US$52 million per year, making it a significant problem for large healthcare facilities that see thousands of people each day. Applications that monitor virtual lines inside buildings can notify the appropriate personnel if an individual accesses a restricted area from public parts of the facility – or if a supply closet stocked with medical equipment, materials and drugs is opened during certain times of the day. The app allows human operators to define an unlimited number of areas and virtual lines within a scene, so the functionality can be fully adapted to individual needs and onsite conditions.

Improve parking management and patient transportation

With connections into patient admission and registration systems, smart cameras can register patient transport access by automatically logging arrival times, license plate numbers and parties involved. This helps staff to increase operations speed and quality. For large hospitals with multiple parking garages, smart surveillance can prevent parking violations by providing real-time parking protection for gateless parking lots or detecting unauthorised parking, minor accidents or potential break-ins in real-time and alert security as needed. The same devices can also be used to detect the obstruction of driveways that may cost approaching ambulances critical seconds.

Increase automation in delivery processing

Lastly, smart cameras can assist in providing smarter processing and storage of goods by using AI video analytics. Cameras equipped with license plate recognition apps make it easy to recognise suppliers and their usual cargo, thus automatically controlling access to facilities. Other apps specialise in detecting and reporting objects, such as misplaced packages and unattended or misplaced items.

The future of smart surveillance in healthcare

The great benefit of IoT lies in its ability to connect devices and process data in a smart way. This enables security cameras equipped with AI to analyse video data in real-time and automatically trigger appropriate actions to relieve humans from recurring jobs – unlocking great potential for process automation to make operations more efficient. AI and Machine Learning enable increasingly smart technologies that can help to make healthcare operations not only safer, but more profitable. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, these technologies have made now the best time for operators of healthcare facilities to consider the latest technological advancements in IoT that have transformed the security camera into a versatile, flexible solution to improve the safety and security of our healthcare facilities.

Kai Bisgwa


This article was originally published in the January 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy here

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