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Hitachi tests trackers to bolster hospital efficiency

Japanese company plans consulting service based on movement of nurses, doctors

TOKYO -- Hitachi will advise medical centers on how to improve efficiency by tracking personnel through its "internet of things" technology, a service that comes as more hospitals log losses due to the Japanese government's efforts to restrain medical spending.

The Japanese industrial conglomerate rolled out test runs at domestic hospitals, planning to sell the service to university hospitals and other large medical facilities. Hitachi targets annual sales of 2 billion yen ($18.1 million) for its medical consulting business in 2020.

Antennas set up throughout a hospital will track the movements of doctors and nurses wearing nametags equipped with sensors. Analysis of this data will help Hitachi offer tailored solutions such as altering work shifts to cut time spent on unnecessary tasks and movements. The company aims to improve labor productivity on an hourly basis.

The sensors also measure distances among personnel to determine whether employees are communicating with each other.

Medical equipment makers also are using the internet of things to offer business advice to hospitals. GE Healthcare Japan recently began installing sensors on equipment that moves between hospital rooms such as ultrasound machines. Using the data to find the most suitable storage space can help medical facilities bolster equipment operating rates and reduce the number of machines needed.

Roughly 70% of hospitals across Japan recorded losses in 2016, according to the Japan Hospital Federation. Fee reductions for medical treatments as well as higher costs tied to a doctor shortage are spurring demand to improve the efficiency of hospital operations. 


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