All devices that collect and share data between each other and the cloud comprise the Internet of Things (IoT), or Internet of Everything (IoE) realm. This realm is getting more and more adopted across different industries and life spheres, from shipment conditions monitoring and waste management to remotely making coffee and getting shopping advice. Of course, the healthcare industry is also touched by the briskly growing wave of connected devices.
IoT is able to bring benefits to both caregivers and patients anywhere from chronic condition management to the entire spectrum of disease prevention activities. Connected devices are able to bring significant value by improving access to coordinated care, providing health specialists with data to advance care quality and, accordingly, helping to reduce expenditures.
Of course, adoption will take significant investments. According to the recent report by Grand View Research, the global healthcare sector will put $410 billion in IoT devices, software and services in 2022. But what areas are anticipated to get investments? Let’s figure out.
3 dimensions of healthcare IoT
The further growth of IoT technologies in healthcare can be driven by various factors, including the growing elderly population due to longer life expectancies, subsequent increase in chronic and Medicare patients with such conditions as diabetes, COPD and asthma.
These patients are usually admitted in the acute state, since most likely their disease has developed complications. The physiological status of such patients requires continuous tracking, which can be performed by IoT-powered, noninvasive monitoring solutions. These solutions use biometric sensors that collect health status data and then transmit it to the cloud to store, process, analyze the gathered information and then send it wirelessly to providers for review, further analysis and reporting.
Instead of assigning a registered nurse to come by in a patient’s room at regular time intervals and check his or her vitals, IoT allows to autonomously notify caregivers about a patient’s wellbeing with a continuous data flow. This way, providers will have a seamless history of changes in a patient’s health status instead of only a few measured episodes, which simultaneously allows both improving care quality through constant monitoring and lowering costs by reducing the need to assign a specific health specialist to manually collect needed data. It also reduces the risk of medical errors, one of the major death causes in the US.
IoT implementation in medical devices can also solve the problem of machine utilization within a healthcare organization. Such devices will gather and deliver information on daily utilization, and this statistics can be used for effective patient scheduling.
For example, if an MRI in one hospital is only 25% utilized, and one in another location gets too crowded, health professionals can just redirect the patient to the under-subscribed scanner. Analyzing this data can also help the hospital to schedule regular maintenance in the most cost-effective way.
In-home health monitoring
Effective health tracking outside hospitals is troublesome and may take a significant budget, as a major part of patients can’t sustain self-monitoring. Accordingly, a patient will have to pay an assigned nurse to watch over him or her. In the case where home care is not a must, IoT opens up another option to notify health specialists about significant changes in a patient’s health status.
Small, powerful wireless solutions can securely capture patient health data from a number of sensors, then apply predefined algorithms to break this data into valuable insights and share it through a secure service layer (SSL) to a server in the cloud. The patient’s physician or nurse receives the comprehensive data and acts appropriately – calls, sends a text or email to suggest either scheduling an appointment or taking a few tests if needed.
As a result, patients can receive quality care not only in a hospital or clinic during an episode of complication, but in the comfort of their home, getting earlier diagnosis and preventing any exacerbations.
For instance, patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases and getting prescribed new medications can be monitored 24 / 7 to timely recognize and react to their body’s adverse reactions. One-time EKG doesn’t always allow to detect arrhythmia and heart hypoxemia, but connected sensors could easily spot them and indicate cardiac issues earlier.
Patients with diabetes, in their turn, can make sure that they won’t develop any severe complications if their CGMs and instant finger stick testers collect every measurement, analyze the trend and notify a physician about the patient’s progress in diabetes compensation. In diabetes Type 2, this also allows to keep the disease under control and prescribe insulin medications much later.
Of course, data collected from IoT devices can also be used for preventive health activities.
The report from Grand View Research also claims that wearables dominate in healthcare IoT, making up 60% of the connected medical device market. And the demand for wearable tracking solutions is anticipated to grow further. According to IDC, the wearable market is expected to generate double-digit growth through 2015-2020, resulting in worldwide shipments of 237.1 million devices in 2020.
Everyone can actually benefit from IoT-powered monitoring of their wellbeing, daily routine, workout, temperature, blood pressure, sleep patterns and more. Healthy and active people can both keep track of their health and keep themselves fit.
But as wearables develop, sensors can gather more and more vital details. Along with trackers and smart watches, medical devices can also connect to smartphones, so a person can gather all information in one place and check it anytime he/she wants. |For instance, this can be extremely helpful to pregnant women to make them sure they stay healthy during the entire pregnancy period.
Chronic patients, in their turn, can manage their diseases more actively, tracking their medication intake, monitoring overall health state, identifying patterns in particular vital signs and understanding their condition to a greater extent.
Healthcare evolution is rooted in IoT
Healthcare is more than just an industry. It is where lives are continually at stake and any additional data can save a life, allowing health professionals to timely intervene and help a patient.
In healthcare, IoT means enabling preventive care for the sake of population health, allowing to monitor health status of chronic patients to prevent acute complications, cutting on care costs, ensuring patient-centric care coordination and, ultimately, improving care quality.
By John Barnett, Project Coordinator at Iflexion with over 14 years of experience in the healthcare IT industry.