The healthcare industry has always been at the forefront of emerging trends. Today's healthcare solutions have been elevated to levels that were deemed impossible just a few years ago. A report by WHO revealed that the global life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. And if you remember correctly, Electronic Medical Records (EMR) made a significant impact a decade ago, but today, telemedicine, robots, wearables, and most importantly, the Internet of Things (IoT), are setting some very positive trends.
With the 2020 outbreak of Coronavirus that has closed down borders, forced businesses and schools to close and left many under quarantine or social isolation to flatten the curve, the medical industry is just beginning to fully realize the benefits of IoT. IoT devices can alleviate some big strains on healthcare practitioners by making virtual appointments possible and ensuring high-risk patients don’t leave their homes to get their routine care.
It isn't easy to find an industry with more potential for the Internet of Things than healthcare. IoT technologies that utilize data from sensors provide lots of benefits on all levels, starting from disease prevention and early diagnosis to health monitoring and in-patient treatment.
A recent study published on the MarketWatch projects that the world market for IoT in healthcare will grow from $82.3 billion to $242.1 billion for 2020 and 2025. According to the report, the main factors fueling investment into IoT are; growing cloud-based infrastructure, advanced and precise results, and availability of more affordable smart devices.
The healthcare sector quickly integrated a range of IoT solutions by creating the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Devices like pacemakers and heart monitors gather and send patient information through different networks to medical caregivers for analysis, monitoring, and remote configuring.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
IoMT describes all medical devices and applications "or things" that connect to healthcare computer systems through the internet. It is built upon several technologies, including IoT connectivity, sensors, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Wi-Fi enabled medical devices allow machine-to-machine communication that's the basis of IoMT. These devices then connect to cloud platforms, where the collected data can be analyzed and stored.
The capabilities of IoMT result in fewer mistakes, more accurate diagnoses, all at a lower cost of care. Besides, when paired with smartphone apps, the technology can collect data from patients and process it automatically, identifying precursors of disease that can be treated, and thus preventing it from even progressing into early stages.
IoMT is not only enhancing patient experience but is also helping to cut down costs. Goldman Sachs estimates that this technology will save the healthcare sector $300 billion in yearly expenditures, mainly through improved medication adherence and remote patient monitoring.
IoT uses for the healthcare industry
Long duration between visits, inadequate data collection, long waiting times, and many other challenges can prevent even the best hospitals and doctors from offering the highest quality care possible. One of the most widely-applied applications of this technology is the IoT-powered sensors on healthcare devices and hospital wristbands. These sensors gather patient data and convey it through cloud-based applications that communicate it to the doctor, in real-time. Since it minimizes the need to gather and send data manually, it reduces the waiting times for patients and allows caregivers to focus on other critical aspects.
Healthcare facilities can also use IoT-powered medical equipment and devices to track patients' glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rates, and other health data. When this data is tracked and reported in real-time, it helps prevent severe medical conditions entirely or find them at the early stages.
Minimize medical errors
IoT use in the healthcare industry allows for more effective patient monitoring and helps minimize the risk for human error. As it turns out, avoidable human errors result in thousands of deaths annually.
Traditionally, patient progress was noted on paper and depended on the judgment of a doctor to direct concerns to appropriate staff. But now, doctors can record and save patient data in the cloud. Unlike humans, machines don't make typing errors when recording data.
So, healthcare workers can use IoT-powered devices like wristbands to verify the identity of the patient. He or she can check for allergies along with other critical information like lab findings, observations, and electronic medication charts to avoid any mix-ups. Artificial intelligence can be used along with IoMT technology to further assist in diagnosis and treatment.
IoT, along with the immense amount of data online, gives patients more control, not just for the data collected from their body, but of the knowledge required to clarify their findings.
When patients have diagnostic information at their disposal, they can adhere to medical plans personalized to reflect changes in their condition and it allows for some self-management. Those with heart issues, for instance, weigh themselves routinely to monitor fluid retention trends to guide treatment. But now, they can use smart scales, which relay data to a medication chart in their phones, and can adjust the recommended dosage of drugs as per the parameters pre-set by the doctor.
Applications like smart building controls, surveillance systems, financial and health information analytics can help healthcare facilities to reduce costs by up to 25-30% and help them to get better ROI from their data assets. IoT solves basic operational and infrastructure problems from controlling thermostats to lower energy costs, to improving surveillance on patients, staff and properties with cameras and sensors, and so on.
Additionally, IoT offers healthcare facilities with instant access to their assets through intelligent gateways and sensors. Analytics used in the big data obtained from these assets will address challenges and help facilities to deliver value-added solutions to their patients and clients.
Healthcare in rural areas
One of the main challenges that people in rural areas face when it comes to getting quality health is access. IoT solves this problem by making communication between patient and doctor easier, when they can’t meet physically.
With IoT devices, doctors can monitor patient data and also address a vast array of health concerns. Although this isn't a replacement for in-person visits, it can suffice, especially in cases where the patient doesn't have time or resources to travel for hours to access a healthcare provider.
Supply chain management
By saturating the entire supply chain – from outsourcing of raw materials to production to final delivery to the end-user – with data points connecting these devices to robust analytics engines, the Internet of Things uncovers processes that were previously hidden. This makes it easier to identify inefficiency, hitches and redundancies in the supply chain.
IoT use in the healthcare industry enables leaders to make data-driven decisions when making corrections. The sensors also ensure that facilities only receive the correct inventory they ordered from the manufacturer and that they are not counterfeit.
Remote equipment diagnostics
Medical equipment OEMs have been leveraging remote diagnostic technology to track and manage the health of costly medical equipment, including MRI, X-ray, Ct-Scan, radiation therapy and ultrasound equipment. These tools are expensive to maintain, and proactive monitoring and remote diagnostics can significantly enhance downtime costs.
Sheri Bruemmer is a seasoned industry expert with expertise in growing and managing operations that support assisted living, adult foster care, and homes for the aged communities. Sheri is a certified Gerontologist, licensed Assisted Living Director, and licensed nurse as well.
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