M2M in the Wild: Real World Examples – Part 2 (Healthcare costs and security)
As promised in last week’s blog, this week I am going to take a look at how Machine-to-Machine devices are used in the healthcare industry to help keep the systems keeping us alive, stay alive themselves! If you took a look at the customer section of our website
for companies in the healthcare industry, you can see that we have a lot of companies listed that provide solutions to securely connect, manage, and innovate everything from MRI machines to blood analyzers.
These manufacturers turn to an M2M platform for many reasons, but top among them is improving the service offerings that they provide. One customer told me that a system being out of action for a single day can result in 35 patients being unable to receive treatment, so minimizing system downtime, and providing out-of-hours preventative maintenance is essential to ensuring that people receive treatment as and when they are scheduled.
Another customer provides devices to clinics to assist with IVF treatments by checking the viability of embryos. The procedure can take a day or more to run for each patient, and so the company needed to find a way to ensure the success of each treatment not only for the clinic using the system, but for the patient who had invested not only a lot of money, but also a lot of emotion into the procedure as well. So, they needed to ensure that they could be preemptive in the availability of their systems by collecting and analyzing log files and consumables data so that they can proactively dispatch field service staff prior to the next treatment commencing.
One of the benefits of access to a medical device remotely is being able to calibrate a system without having to send an engineer to site. By being able to remotely and securely connect into a device, manufacturers can provide expert assistance to lab managers to ensure systems are running within acceptable parameters. One example of this is Leica Microsystems who are using Axeda in the Leica RemoteCare service offering for their tissue processors and confocal microscopes. By proactively monitoring these systems, Leica can detect parameter deviations before problems occur. For example, as soon as the temperature drifts out of range for a tissue sample, an alarm and email are sent to both Leica and to their customer in the lab, so that adjustments can be made before losing a specimen.
The ability to conduct remote support also saves the time and expense of sending field engineers to diagnose problems as well. For example, a research institution had been experiencing system crashes of its microscopes during long-term experiments, but by being able to remotely capture and analyze the saved error logs, the remote engineer could see that the memory sizes at the time of the crash fell below 500 MB. Instead of dispatching an engineer onsite to replace a defective detector board, a service representative remotely cleaned up the PC to resolve the issue. As a result, diagnosis and repair took one hour instead of three days and saved the unnecessary expense of replacing a perfectly fine piece of hardware.
The costs of field service for these incidents are not insignificant either; a customer who focuses on radiotherapy and x-ray imaging devices estimates that they save around $2,000 for each problem that they solve remotely, ant that they have also reduced their Mean-Time-To-Repair (MTTR) by 50% while saving four hours of travel time for each call.
You may wonder how remote access is securely achieved by companies such as Leica (take a look here for news last week on the latest U.S FDA recommendations for manufacturers of healthcare systems), well Axeda agents are “firewall friendly”, meaning that communications are always HTTPS initiated by the agent, so your customers never need to have IT open ports, change firewall rules, use modems or VPNs for communication, all of which can create security risks by potentially enabling intruders to gain access to sensitive patient data.
I have a few more words to say on the healthcare subject next time, but if you would like to read more about what Leica is doing, we have a case study here that you can take a look at.