Keeping things cool - Using IOT Technology to keep medications safe
Many medications, including covid vaccines, need to be stored in a specific temperature range to sustain their efficacy. A faulty fridge, or the door left ajar, can quickly cause a whole fridge-full of medication to be rendered unusable.
Temperature and humidity sensors monitor medication fridges, providing real-time information via a centralised dashboard and issuing alerts any time the temperature and/or humidity breaches the set threshold.
Smart thinking at Hawke’s Bay DHB
It’s vital to keep medications at the correct temperature so they stay safe and effective.
The traditional way of monitoring refrigerated medication involved a manual process, checking and logging the temperature of each fridge daily. Across an entire hospital, that’s a lot of hours – and it still doesn’t necessarily catch problems quickly enough. If a fridge door isn’t fully shut and it stays that way for several hours, all the medication in the fridge may be rendered unusable. That leads to several issues: not enough medication available for patients; expensive losses; and piles of paperwork.
But through collaboration, project teams from Spark IoT, Spark Health and Hawke’s Bay DHB devised a much smarter solution. It consists of temperature and humidity sensors (Netvox R718AB), connected to our LoRaWAN network (with 4G Backhaul). As the DHB’s concrete-dense buildings aren’t conducive to good network coverage, technical difficulties were overcome thanks to the installation of LoRaWAN indoor gateways.
This allows live temperature information to be sent directly from the sensors, via the gateways, for display onto the Spark IoT Bridge dashboard. IoT Bridge is a new Spark-built, cloud-hosted platform powered by Microsoft Azure. It can fold a variety of monitoring use cases into one central tool to provide easy and timely access to data needed for informed decision-making. Within IoT Bridge, DHB users can also configure devices, set alerts for key personnel to be notified if a threshold is breached, and run stakeholder reports quickly.
More medication available, money saved and fewer piles of paperwork. Plus, reduced manual monitoring has saved many hours of legwork.
Initially starting with a five-device trial, it has quickly scaled to over 80 devices. Real-time monitoring and automated alerts means the DHB can ensure its medications remain useful for as long as possible, and that staff members are making the best use of their time.
With monitored fridges, online dashboards show immediately if there is a problem. If a fridge door is left open, for instance, it will ping an alert as soon as the temperature breaches the set threshold. Within minutes, someone can pop in and shut the door. That’s already happened a few times, proving the system’s value almost immediately.
For example, a fridge sensor was installed in a critical vaccine fridge at a Napier vaccination site. As occasionally happens, one night staff accidentally left the door ajar and the temperature went up. Pharmacy staff received alerts via text and email, and immediately phoned the staff on site who quickly closed the door. From start to finish, the outage was resolved in under 20 minutes and no vaccines were lost.
In another instance, the system picked up a fault in a single fridge. One of the aseptic compounding fridges, which are used for storing prepared cancer medications, wasn’t maintaining its low temperature. The fault was picked up late Friday evening and the medications were moved to another fridge within 10 minutes. Without the new system, this error would have been missed for longer and led to stock loss which would have resulted in delayed cancer treatment for patients at the beginning of the following week.
Seeing the system in action means the whole team at Hawke’s Bay DHB now has confidence that medications are kept safely stored and fully tracked – particularly helpful right now for correctly storing the covid vaccine.
“The staff who went around downloading and checking data with the previous manual system are delighted with the change – this makes their job much easier and the results are much more timely and just as reliable,” says Ben Duffus, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Lead for Hawkes Bay DHB, who worked with Spark on coming up with this solution. “An alert comes through to the teams quickly, and we can take action within a few minutes to rectify.”
From an initial trial of just five devices, the solution was quickly scaled up. Now, there are 80 monitored fridges at the hospital and a few extras in remote areas, all providing real-time feedback to staff, who access the information on a centralised dashboard. With the digital infrastructure now in place, the DHB can consider other options for asset tracking and environmental monitoring. And they’re able to keep fine-tuning the systems.
“We’re coming up with ways to predict a main fridge failure even earlier,” Duffus says. “It’s been really important to have a partnership with Spark IoT, because it means we can innovate together.”