Knowingly or unknowingly Internet of Things (IoT) has become a part of almost everyone’s lives these days. From using activity tracking devices to tele-consulting our physicians from the comforts of our offices, we are integrating connected devices in our life.
For patients, it’s definitely a matter of convenience which helps them lead a healthier life. On the other side of the spectrum, Healthcare providers are also studying the impact this new wave of technology can bring to their practices. Moreover, as per a report by MarketResearch.com, the Healthcare IoT market is expected to reach at $117 billion by the year 2020.
IoT in healthcare is much more than smart sensors and enormous amount of data movement between people and devices. Players in the healthcare landscape continue to be enthusiastic about IoT as it comes with the promise of improving care outcome and reducing overall costs which eventually can save a lot of lives. Regular monitoring and analysis of data can prevent chronic diseases, a major reason behind readmissions and deaths.
To cite an example, I would highlight the importance of IoT in an emergency ambulatory situation. In case of a fatal road accident, hospitals can save valuable time if they install ECG machines and transmission capabilities to share the patients’ vital stats with ER physicians/surgeons. As and when the ambulance reaches the hospital premise, everyone in the ER would be aware about how to stabilize and treat the patient immediately.
In the example cited above, the patients do not play any role in managing their healthcare because it’s an emergency situation which can’t be controlled. But, in case of chronic conditions, patients can play a major role in improving their healthcare by regularly recording and sharing data with their physicians through smart sensors & wearables. Specifically, in population health, regular monitoring can bring a more widespread improvement in chronic condition management. For instance, to control diabetes in a particular area, physicians can monitor a group of high-risk people and request their daily Blood-sugar level on tablets or mobile phones. Sudden spikes in sugar level would send alert signals to the physicians who can immediately warn the population as well as suggest corrective measures to avoid any aggravation.
Smart technology can also be valuable in medication adherence. With home medication kits, if medicines aren’t administered on a timely basis, it sends the data to physician or family members. Then there are other interesting innovations such as smart beds which offer some relief to nurses. These beds are capable of automatic adjustments, application of pressure as well as data transmission of patients’ movements.
Apart from all the cost savings and care management, Hospitals would benefit greatly from a better patient experience. Engaging patients in their care process would ensure adherence to medicines/activities which is the first step in the road to recovery. An engaged patient leaves the hospital more satisfied as he/she becomes aware of the whole care process unlike the last decade when people popped medicines without any knowledge whatsoever.
Though security of data remains a key concern of hospitals with data moving between multiple devices, healthcare executives believe common platforms, regulations and standardization can bring scalability in Healthcare IoT. Possibilities of IoT implementation are infinite and there would be many innovations in the future too, which providers need to leverage as per the requirement of their practices.