June 1, 2023

Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) to Improve Patient Care

By Niraj Dave

Senior Director, Enterprise Product Development

Maintaining stable temperatures and humidity is critical to hospital operations. Refrigeration unit errors, operating room (OR) temperature fluctuations, and cooling failures for diagnostic equipment can severely hinder patient care, not to mention lead to extensive financial losses.

While Internet of Things (IoT)-based monitoring systems enable real-time, automated monitoring of hospital temperatures, few organizations are taking advantage. Those that are, however, are seeing significant cost savings and improvements in patient safety.

Read on to see how we helped build temperature monitoring systems for a regional hospital, both enhancing patient care and mitigating financial risk.

How we leveraged the Internet of Things (IoT) to reduce refrigeration failures

When we first engaged our client, their most pressing issue was a loss of medications and specimens from refrigeration failures. Refrigeration unit doors were not closed properly, and there were no automated temperature monitoring systems in place to alert the staff.

One such failure took place over a weekend. The problem was not discovered until Monday morning—when $30,000 of medication had been lost, and countless patients had to reschedule their vaccination appointments. What’s more, this was not the first time such an event had happened, but it was a catalyst that illuminated the need for transformation.

After evaluating the situation, we determined that there was a need for a comprehensive solution to monitor temperature throughout the hospital, alert staff to exceptions, and provide compliance reporting for agencies like the CDC and the Joint Commission.

Our approach used an Internet of Things (IoT) deployment model to identify sensors that could handle multiple and complex temperature use cases, including ultra-low freezers and laboratory water baths. These sensors were then activated and connected through a LoRaWAN network, capturing data and delivering it to a repository for analytics and compliance reporting.

We built a cloud-based solution that integrated captured data with other hospital systems, providing real-time messaging and temperature and humidity exceptions. This platform could adapt to any IoT use case, accelerating deployment, simplifying management, and maximizing the hospital’s return on investment.

At the conclusion of the project, we achieved the following results for the hospital:

  • Saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost medications
  • Saving 400 hours annually in preparing compliance reports
  • Increasing patient safety by eliminating the risk of providing non-compliant drugs to patients

How temperature monitoring can improve patient care

After our initial success, we expanded our system to provide temperature and humidity monitoring throughout the entire facility—including the pharmacy, labs, treatment rooms, storage, and IT closests.

Here are some of the additional areas where our IoT-based temperature monitoring solution enhanced patient care throughout the hospital.

Lab samples

Many lab samples are temperature-sensitive, where deviations can lead to degradation, denaturation of proteins, contamination, or chemical reactions that alter sample composition.

Our IoT-based temperature monitoring solution not only helped to preserve samples and maintain their stability, but also alert lab personnel to equipment malfunctions or power outages in real time. Early detection, in turn, allowed for prompt corrective action to prevent sample loss or damage.

Temperature and humidity monitoring also helped to capture data that enabled analysis of trends, patterns, or fluctuations in storage conditions. This helped staff to proactively address potential issues and ensure sample integrity, as well as maintain adherence with CLIA, GLP, CLSI, ISO, OSHA, HIPAA, and other compliance standards.


Typically, morgues maintain low temperatures to slow the decomposition process. Continuous temperature and humidity monitoring help to ensure the facility maintains this optimal temperature range. Not only does this help to preserve bodies, but also prevents bacterial growth, and prevents changes in bodily condition that could hinder identification and investigation.

Temperature monitoring was critical to maintain morgue compliance with health and safety regulations, infection control standards, and licensing and accreditation requirements.

Ambient operating room temperature

There are a number of reasons why operating rooms (ORs) must maintain consistent temperatures, before, during, and after an operation is complete. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Patient comfort and safety. Extreme temperatures can cause discomfort, stress, and negatively impact patient outcomes.
  • Infection control. Proper temperature control, as well as regulation of airflow and humidity levels, is key to preventing the spread of airborne pathogens and growth of bacteria and reducing risk of surgical site infections.
  • Surgical equipment performance. Many medications, blood products, diagnostic reagents, surgical instruments, implantable devices, lasers, endoscopes and diagnostic equipment are temperature-sensitive, requiring specific environmental conditions to operate effectively.
  • Staff comfort and performance. Surgeons, nurses, and support personnel work in demanding environments, and maintaining comfortable temperatures can help improve focus and concentration, necessary to achieve the precision required for a successful surgical outcome.
  • Regulatory compliance. CMS, ASHRAE, AORN, the Joint Commission, and many state health departments require specific ambient temperatures in operating rooms. Continuous monitoring is key to maintaining such compliance.

Temperature-sensitive healthcare technology

As mentioned earlier, there are many types of healthcare equipment that require specific, consistent temperatures in order to remain effective. Here are some of the more common:

  • Medications. Exposure to extreme temperatures can alter the chemical composition of certain medications, especially biologics and certain injectables, reducing their effectiveness or making them unsafe.
  • Blood products. Blood products must be stored at specific temperatures to prevent spoilage. Improper storage can lead to hemolysis—breakdown of red blood cells—or bacterial contamination.
  • Diagnostic reagents. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, for example, can often be temperature-sensitive.
  • Surgical instruments. Some surgical instruments, especially those with delicate or electronic components, can be sensitive to temperature variations. Lasers and endoscopes are two examples of such technologies.
  • Implantable devices. Pacemakers, defibrillators, and even prosthetic devices can often be sensitive to temperature fluctuations. For example, high temperatures can cause damage to electronic components or impact the integrity of materials used in the devices.
  • Diagnostic imaging equipment. Both MRI and CT scanners generate heat during operation and require adequate cooling to prevent overheating. Failure to maintain specific temperatures can lead to damage for these highly expensive pieces of equipment.

Final thoughts on IoT and temperature monitoring for hospitals

By leveraging IoT technology to automate real-time temperature monitoring across our client hospital, we were able to not only reduce costs, but improve patient care. Our approach, however, started with identifying a specific area where we could minimize time to value—in this case, in vaccine temperature monitoring. We then built on that success to impact the broader operation.

If you’re looking for healthcare technology support that will have a tangible impact on patient care, reach out to 3Pillar Global and we’ll figure out an approach that works for you.

Learn more about 3Pillar Global’s healthcare expertise right here.