The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected devices capable of collecting, storing, and sharing data. In healthcare, IoT devices help monitor patients remotely, increase efficiency in healthcare management, and automate some tasks—reducing cost and improving data collection and analysis, paving the way for personalized medicine.
IoT in healthcare has been around for decades, but it started gaining traction with the advent of wireless technology and the proliferation of connected devices. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in investment and development of IoT for healthcare, driven by the need for remote patient monitoring and improved data management.
Improving Patient Care
IoT devices can be used for remote monitoring of patients, allowing healthcare providers to track a patient’s vitals continuously, even when not in the hospital, without allocating more resources. IoT devices can also improve the efficiency of healthcare facilities by automating routine tasks and monitoring devices, enhancing the availability of healthcare infrastructure.
Remote monitoring of patients using IoT devices helps identify potential health issues early on, allowing for prompt intervention and for patients to receive treatment at home. IoT devices for remote monitoring include wearables such as smart watches or fitness trackers and standalone devices such as blood pressure monitors. These devices are particularly beneficial for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, who require regular monitoring.
IoT can improve the availability of critical healthcare personnel in healthcare settings by automating administrative, routine, or repetitive tasks like documentation or manual data entry. IoT devices can also track locations, allowing staff to remotely locate and identify patients and equipment within the facility.
Reducing Healthcare Costs
The adoption of IoT technologies can reduce healthcare costs for providers as well as patients. An IoT-enabled healthcare ecosystem can empower preventive medicine, reducing hospitalizations. Remote healthcare or telemedicine can also save transportation costs while improving access to healthcare. Automating administrative tasks using IoT can reduce labor costs for healthcare providers too.
Preventive medicine: Monitoring vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate, remotely allows healthcare providers to identify potential health issues early and intervene before they become more serious, reducing the need for hospitalization and expensive treatments.
Remote healthcare: IoT-enabled devices and platforms can be used for virtual medical assistant (VMA), allowing patients to receive treatment and advice from healthcare providers remotely. Telemedicine can reduce the need for in-person visits, saving patients and healthcare providers money on transportation costs. It can also increase healthcare access for patients living in remote areas who may otherwise have difficulty accessing healthcare services.
Administrative automation: Devices that automatically transmit data to electronic medical records can reduce the need for manual data entry and documentation. It can save time and money, boosting the productivity of healthcare professionals. Additionally, IoT devices can help track the usage and availability of medical supplies, streamlining inventory management. Plus, using IoT-enabled devices can help administrators predict when a device or equipment will fail, allowing planned maintenance and repairs and preventing downtime.
Streamlining Data Management
IoT in healthcare can improve data collection and analysis, leading to better patient outcomes and more cost-effective healthcare. IoT can also support personalized medicine, allowing healthcare providers to create customized treatment plans based on a patient’s unique characteristics.
IoT-enabled devices can collect large amounts of data, potentially improving healthcare in many ways.
- Predictive analytics can identify patients at risk of specific health issues, giving rise to pre-emptive interventions and improving patient outcomes.
- Population health management for health trends and patterns allows for targeted and socially relevant interventions.
- Personalized medicine can customize treatment plans for an individual based on their specific health data.
- Understanding disease progression and potential treatment options can improve medical research.
- Insights into resource utilization and identifying areas for improvement can improve healthcare operations and management.
Healthcare professionals can also use IoT-enabled devices to collect data on a patient’s environment, such as air and water quality, diet, and physical activity. Personal data like this can help identify the root cause of diseases, providing more effective treatment plans.
Despite the many recent advances in IoT technology in healthcare, there remain significant challenges to its widespread adoption.
Collecting and storing large amounts of personal health data through IoT devices raises data privacy and security concerns. Hackers and malicious actors may attempt to access or steal this sensitive information, which can significantly harm patients.
The need for standardization is also a significant gap. With the increasing use of IoT devices and platforms in healthcare, universal standards can ensure that the collected data can be easily shared and integrated with external systems. With standardization, interoperability of the technology between disparate healthcare organizations and settings is easier, limiting the potential of the technology.
Use Cases of IoT in Healthcare
Despite tenacious challenges, the technology is gaining traction, with many consumer electronic and medical devices making the shift to this technology.
- Wearable devices: IoT devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers collect data on a user’s vital signs, physical activity, and sleep patterns. These devices also integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) to provide real-time data to healthcare providers.
- Smart Medical Devices: IoT-enabled medical devices connected to the cloud collect data on a patient’s treatment plans, drug dosage, and outcomes. This data can be analyzed to identify patterns and trends, leading to better patient outcomes. Modern devices like Blood Glucose Monitors, Insulin Pumps, and Inhalers are increasingly integrating IoT technology.
- Telehealth: Healthcare providers use IoT technology to monitor patients remotely, collecting data on a patient’s vital signs and symptoms without needing in-person visits. Videoconferencing, remote monitoring devices, and mobile apps are widely gaining traction in telemedicine applications.
- Medical Imaging: IoT-enabled medical imaging devices such as MRIs, CTs, and X-rays connected to the cloud allow easy access to patient data and real-time data analysis.
- Electronic Health Records (EHRs): IoT-enabled EHRs are used to store and analyze data on a patient’s health information, treatment plans, and outcomes. This data can help identify patterns and trends, leading to better patient outcomes and more cost-effective healthcare.
IoT in Healthcare After Covid 19
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the adoption of IoT in healthcare. The pandemic has highlighted the need for remote patient monitoring and telemedicine to reduce in-person visits to healthcare facilities and manage the pandemic.
It has accelerated the adoption of IoT-enabled healthcare solutions, such as remote monitoring devices for vital signs and virtual consultations. Additionally, the pandemic has also increased the focus on data collection and analysis to track and understand the spread of the virus, which in turn has increased the demand for IoT solutions that can help with data management.
Increasingly, IoT devices help monitor patients remotely, develop personalized medical interventions, and monitor treatment efficacy.
An aging world population and the prevalence of chronic diseases make self-management a viable tactic for reducing the burden on global healthcare infrastructure. However, significant challenges remain, such as privacy and security concerns and the need for standardization and interoperability.
Notwithstanding these challenges, IoT has the potential to revolutionize healthcare with the help of Custom Software Development Companies, improving patient care and reducing costs.