American hospitals are fantastic hubs of innovation. These facilities combine well-trained staff with some of the newest technologies available to ensure patients receive the best possible care. Recently, healthcare facilities have even begun to use specialized hospital sensors to improve health outcomes and overall building efficiency.
Right now, the corrections industry stands to do the same thing. With sensors based on those already operating within hospitals, prisoner rehabilitation and facility efficiency could be expanded in jails and prisons. Here are a few examples of how hospitals already use smart sensors, and how they could be applied in the corrections industry.
Hospital Sensors Monitoring Beds
Bedsores are a significant problem for patients dealing with spinal cord injuries. Because these patients have no feeling or control over their lower extremities, they rely on hospital staff to physically rotate their bodies at regular intervals. To combat the inefficiency of this process, researchers have developed smart mattresses with embedded sensors that can detect the formation of bedsores on patients before they become problematic. This system is useful in diagnosing both the patient’s problem their tactile response, and in practice, using it improves rehabilitation and prevents decubitus ulcers during hospital stays.
Similar sensor technologies and smart beds could be useful to the corrections industry as well. By monitoring the sleep patterns of an inmate population, jail administrators could gain a better understanding of the stressors affecting prisoners in their daily lives. This is particularly important since those stressors are often among the root causes of negative behaviors.
For example, if one cell block is experiencing sleep interruptions on a regular basis, those prisoners may become irritable and less cooperative with staff. With smart bed sensors in place, however, a jail administrator could learn about this sleep-interruption problem via computer notification, rather than after a violent outburst.
Hospital Sensors Monitoring Vents
Hospitals have been wary of low-quality air ever since miasma was a concept. Ten years ago, researchers were already calling for smart sensors in waiting room ventilation ducts to monitor the air and detect airborne diseases. Today, hospitals actively utilize the air itself to prevent diseases from entering or leaving special isolation rooms. According to allsensors.com:
Infectious diseases and chronically ill patients require special air handling equipment in hospital isolation rooms. The isolation could dictate either positive or negative pressure in the room.
An isolation room at negative pressure has a lower pressure than that of adjacent areas. This keeps air from flowing out of the isolation room and into adjacent rooms or areas. In contrast, higher (positive) air pressure in the isolation room than in the adjoining corridor or anteroom prevents transmission from the outside environment to severely immunosuppressed patients.
These applications would be impossible without sensors monitoring a hospital’s air supply. In addition to that, similar sensors could be used by the corrections industry to solve inmate behavioral problems, some of which stem from poor air quality or varying atmospheric pressure. If a jail administrator knows low-quality air increases anxiety in inmates, sensors that monitor air quality could act as early-warning systems that predict mood swings in prisoner populations.
Hospital Sensors Monitoring Assets
Since hospitals are always buzzing with highly mobile staff and equipment, it’s challenging to keep accurate records of equipment use, sterilization, and maintenance. Even one missed cleaning cycle can mean big consequences for individual patients. To solve this problem, some hospitals have employed sensors that collect RTLS (real-time location system) data on these healthcare assets. Thanks to these sensors, “organizations are able to eliminate the need for staff to monitor and report manually, and can even send automated cleaning or service alerts to the appropriate teams,” according to Joel Cook, the Senior Director of Healthcare Solutions for Stanley Healthcare.
Jails have comparable asset management problems. For instance, everything from staff radios to prisoner bathroom fixtures requires periodic up-keep and maintenance. However, tracking all these asset maintenance checks is a chore. With a little bit of reverse-engineering, the same sensors that collect RTLS data for healthcare assets could be employed by jail administrators to predict everything from pipe failures to broken phone handsets. And since the system is autonomously maintained (just like the healthcare system is), there’s no manual data entry to slow things down administratively.
To wrap everything up, it should be evident how helpful the healthcare industry can be to corrections when it comes to IOT sensor innovation. Hospitals across the county already benefit widely from sensors that monitor patient health, air quality, and asset maintenance status, and there’s no reason jails can’t enjoy these efficiencies as well. But to share in these improvements, jail administrators must employ the proper sensors to meet the specific needs of their facilities.