The Internet of Things (IoT) has rapidly become the source for innovation and creativity in multiple sectors, from transport to manufacturing. In today’s blog, we’re taking a closer look at the healthcare sector. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that nearly half of healthcare providers said they had integrated different kinds of IoT technologies into the IT infrastructures, from operational technology such as automated pharmacy dispensers, to integrated consumer technologies like wearable monitoring devices. So, how is the IoT helping to keep patients safe?
Here we look at the technologies and pull out 4 areas…
Individual health monitoring – consumer products
Most people are familiar with some of the wearable health monitoring devices available on the consumer market today. Usually in the form of a smart wristband, devices are available to track exercise, sleeping patterns and vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. Usually, these devices are also tied to mobile apps or online resources – via, of course, IoT technology – enabling users to track their progress or performance over time, and to relate their own statistics back to broader data.
While such devices are consumer-focused, healthcare practitioners can still use them to help empower their patients to gain greater visibility and control over their own lives. A patient on a weight loss programme, for example, may be more likely to be successful with the help of a diet and exercise tracking device.
Wearable external medical devices
This category shifts the focus from devices of primary interest to consumers, to devices used by healthcare practitioners to monitor conditions and administer treatment – such as insulin pumps. These devices usually use proprietary wireless protocols to communicate between devices and back to a centralised healthcare centre.
The major advantage of such devices from a patient point of view is that they are granted more individualised care and more control over that care. They may take over the control of some devices themselves, choosing when or how often to administer medication, for example. Or they may simply get more visibility of important medical information such as blood sugar levels.
Implanted devices such as pacemakers are nothing new in themselves – they have been saving lives for decades. However, connected versions of such devices are much newer – and are already having as positive an impact on patient care as their unconnected forebears.
Doctors can adjust and optimise such devices quickly, accurately and remotely – which brings with it a similar barrage of advantages. Potentially dangerous conditions can be warded off. Dramatic oscillations in vital statistics can be steadied. Patients or practitioners don’t necessarily need to travel to see each other. The possibilities for faster, smoother care are powerful.
Stationary medical devices
Actually within hospitals and other healthcare settings, networked stationary devices can offer more cost-effective and more efficient monitoring and treatments. Some of the best-known examples are home-based cardio-monitoring systems for bedridden patients, which track cardiology statistics and report them back to the patients’ care team, or hospital-based chemotherapy dispensing stations, which deliver highly complicated chemotherapy doses in exactly the right proportions and speeds. Such devices might use traditional networks such as Wifi.
It is clear just from these examples that the Internet of Things has massive scope within the healthcare sector. From helping doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners to deliver more effective and more tailored care, to giving patients greater visibility and control over their own health, this is one arena where connected devices truly are saving lives. However, as the trend continues to accelerate, so will the need for responsible healthcare data management solutions and strategies that emphasize accuracy, security, patient privacy and compliance. This is where an IoT systems integrator, like InVMA can help. We have don’t just talk about use cases, we talk about the connected product projects we’ve delivered.
You can read more about the challenges and promises of IoT for healthcare here.