Scottish tech start-up senses opportunity for NHS property

Mark Sorsa-Leslie from Beringar

Scottish tech start-up senses opportunity for NHS property

A property technology start-up has developed a new IoT system which could help the NHS manage its buildings and moveable assets.

Beringar, working with CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, has developed a sensor which will improve the health service’s understanding of how hospital beds and crash trolleys are used.

Transmitting data wirelessly using a long range, low power, wide-area network, the sensor will replace traditional methods of measuring and assessing the utilisation of buildings by checking building occupancy levels and identifying trends in the ways patients and staff use buildings.

It can also measure temperature, record air quality and monitor CO2 levels. As the product is developed further, it could be used to sense exactly which beds are vacant in a hospital in real time.

The NHS spends an estimated £30bn every year managing its estates and facilities, but a recent trial of Beringar’s technology at the NHS’ Loxford Health Centre confirmed many of its buildings are being used to a fraction of their capacity.

Collecting more than 160,000 data points during a one month test at Loxford, the device detected empty space which staff thought was in regular use. The sensor, which counted the number of occupants every ten seconds, transferred data back to a specially-designed dashboard, allowing estate managers to identify how they could boost the building’s productivity.

Mark Sorsa-Leslie, co-founder of Beringar, said: “When NHS health planners want to commission a new service, but can’t see available space in their existing facilities, they might consider leasing or building a new property.

“However, the statistics show that there is a lot of free space in the NHS. Having the right data could reveal suitable space they already own in that location, saving a significant amount of money, which could be used to improve direct patient care.”

Carolyn Botfield, estates director at the National Health Service, said: “It’s important for us to identify where the NHS is adding value, and adapt our services to the requirements of the local community - over time, its needs change. Clinics are often block-booked, but we have no way of finding out if just a few people, or twenty patients, are attending every week. The sensor will allow us to achieve real-time feedback on how our buildings are being used, enabling us to make smarter decisions.

“Beringar truly understands the NHS and the pressures and challenges it faces. Our patients are at the heart of everything we do, and the team has taken into consideration the sensitivities surrounding the environment we’re working within. By creating a sensor that doesn’t record or identify individuals, the company has made patient confidentiality a priority. We look forward to working with Beringar in the months and years ahead.”

Dr Stephen Milne, business development manager at CENSIS, said: “This project underlines the positive impact the IoT can have, not only in business, but within the services people rely on.”