Efficiency is one of the health care field’s favorite words, and it has expressed itself in various ways as organizations look for ways to improve workflow with the goal of extending those improvements to patient care. One strategy hospitals and other health care facilities have adopted to reach this aim is automation, which not only helps to mitigate user errors, but also frees up skilled staff to focus on nuanced and complex tasks more directly related to care.

Automation has taken root within various health care operations. For instance, Kevin Milliorn, Pharm.D., Comprehensive Pharmacy Services in Brooklyn Park, Minn., breaks down five pharmacy automation trends that are helping to improve operations and reduce costs.

Another area benefiting from automated technology is the environmental services (ES) department. Whether it's ultraviolet light or hydrogen peroxide, manufacturers are creating automated infection prevention systems that have seen great success. Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, N.Y., states that it achieved a 41 percent reduction in its hospital-onset Clostridium difficile rate during the first year of using an automated system.

The Internet of Things is also enabling departments to improve scheduling and organizing daily routines. One example is a data-enabled system that can track when a patient’s bathroom is low on supplies in real time. So, instead of staff having to enter a patient’s room and maybe even disturb them unnecessarily, ES staff will receive an alert when a room is running low on soap or other hygiene products.

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) such as these have evolved tremendously over the past decade and, as automation becomes the norm, the trend will only continue.

“RTLS adoption is growing at a rapid rate and transitioning from a nice-to-have to a must-have,” says Arne Oyen, CEO of Sonitor, Stamford, Conn. “Although it is difficult to get exact numbers on actual penetration, it is estimated that approximately 15 percent of U.S. hospitals have deployed RTLS; however, many of these are only departmental deployments, as opposed to enterprisewide, so there is a lot more potential growth.”

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