Ant IoT monitors equipment at UK hospital

  • February 15, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Maidstone Hospital in the UK has selected Ant Telecom to protect its critical equipment by using IoT monitoring technology.

The aim is to ensure critical equipment uptime and HACCP regulatory compliance.

Ant Telecom was selected by Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, a large acute hospital trust in the south east of England, to help it digitise and automate the performance monitoring and uptime of critical systems across the trust.

Automated IoT monitoring technology is being used to play a key role in ensuring the trust achieves these goals. Ant’s sensor-led system of automation technology streamlines and modernises traditionally former manual processes so the trust can deploy staff elsewhere more effectively.

The trust provides general hospital services and some areas of complex care to around 560,000 people living in Kent and Sussex. Ant Telecom’s technology updates and improves previous labour-intensive processes.

For instance, IoT monitoring technology has been deployed to critical systems in the trust’s plant room to monitor any potential outages as well as protecting key systems such as HVAC. Storage fridges used to store food for patients are monitored to maintain food quality, enabling the team to meet HACCP regulations more effectively.

“Due to the occasional dip in power, some critical systems need attention, and so the trust was looking for a reliable automated monitoring alert system to inform the duty engineer of any failure,” said Avi Rosenthal, senior engineer at Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. “Ant’s IoT monitoring system provides a direct alert to the engineer instead of the traditional phone call from the help desk. If the engineer is unable to attend the fault, the system automatically escalates the alert to other members of staff, and any challenges can be dealt with appropriately.”

Niall Roberts, sales manager at UK-based Ant Telecom, added: “Many teams in the NHS are stretched to the maximum, due to staff shortages and the increased workload from Covid-19. Therefore, deploying technology that frees NHS staff’s time to focus on other tasks that need attention helps improve productivity. This is where IoT and automation is crossing paths and making a tangible difference. It improves staff efficiency by automating time consuming manual processes so staff can focus on other tasks as well as playing a pivotal role in ensuring critical systems function as they should. In a high-pressure environment where every second and person counts, these gains are important.”

During the consultation process, it became clear that automated monitoring using IoT sensors would help the hospital implement the process required to protect their critical systems.

Wireless IoT sensors were installed in the plant room to monitor power and temperature continuously. Data collected from the sensors are uploaded to a dashboard the IT team can access and review at any time by logging on to a secure online portal with AES128 military grade encryption.

Thresholds are set and, if breached, can alert the IT team on their smartphones so they can investigate immediately. Continuously monitoring and recording conditions also helps the team identify anomalies. For instance, an increase in power consumption is often an early indicator that equipment has an underlying fault and requires maintenance. This early warning not only helps prevent future incidents but ensures equipment is serviced and working at the correct power consumption, which helps reduce energy bills too.

During the consultation it was also discovered that other critical equipment, such as the main storage fridge, could be monitored by the technology. This fridge is used to store food and prepared meals for patients and so it is crucial it works properly.

Moreover, for quality and compliance purposes the hospital must take regular fridge temperature readings daily and document the results to ensure HACCP compliance. This process ensures the food stored has been done so correctly within the required thresholds; if not this could be potentially harmful to patients. With traditional manual processes, by the time a fridge fault has been discovered, time would be lost and food would likely not be saved or used, resulting in a lot of waste that could be in the region of thousands of pounds.

By automating this process with digitised data collection, Ant Telecom provided a more efficient and reliable process that ensures food quality and helps reduce food wastage. Staff no longer need to record and document manually fridge temperature daily to comply with HACCP, as this is now done automatically. Furthermore, if there is an issue, an alert is triggered far earlier in the process providing the team time to either fix the fault or move the food, helping reduce waste.

“We have a more robust process now,” said Rosenthal. “If there is a power outage in the IT hub room, our uninterruptible power supply will automatically kick-in to keep the equipment running, and at the same time our IoT monitoring platform will detect the issue and immediately alert members of the IT team directly on their phones. The process is robust because the response team must acknowledge the alarm, otherwise it escalates to other members of the team. We have the same process for the HVAC system.”

Roberts added: “The trust’s investment in IoT technology has already proven to be a big success for Maidstone Hospital. Not only has it automated many time-consuming manual processes, it has digitised all data making it easy for management to review and make improvements. Responding to a temperature threshold spike in one of the plant rooms resulted in the quick resolution of an issue which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. The infrastructure is now in place to enable the trust to easily expand this to deploy wireless sensors to monitor areas such as energy usage, CO2 levels, medicine and vaccine storage, and water safety to prevent legionella. This will make compliance related tasks far more reliable, less dependent on individuals and help free up their time to concentrate on providing critical care to patients.”