Can the Internet of Things (IoT) save lives? It might sound like a bold claim, but in fact the medical sector is one of the most diverse and dynamic when it comes to IoT applications. In this blog, we’re taking a closer look at three of the most exciting use cases for connected technology in health care – and why they are game-changers.
Use case 1: Remote patient monitoring
On the one hand, remote health monitoring doesn’t sound like a particularly sensational example of healthcare IoT. Early iterations of it have been around for years, with videoconferencing technology used to enable medical practitioners to assess patients across a wide area in their own homes – this is often known as telemedicine.
But the IoT has enabled exciting developments to take place in this area. Now, rather than simply establishing a video link between patient and practitioner so that vital signs can be assessed visually and aurally, connected medical devices can directly measure factors like patients’ heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and even blood sugar levels. These data are then automatically fed back to medical practitioners, with alerts triggered if statistics pass particular benchmarks.
In turn, practitioners gain two different insights into patients’ wellbeing – immediate snapshots and trends over time – and this enables more personalised, precise and responsive care than ever before – a truly exciting prospect.
Use case 2: Clinical trials
Clinical trials are an essential – if sometimes underreported – aspect of the healthcare ecosystem, enabling new lifesaving medicines and interventions to be tested and approved.
Two of the great challenges of running effective clinical trials are keeping participants in the trials to completion, and effectively monitoring them while they are part of the trial – and the IoT can have a positive effect on both. First, it can improve participant engagement in the trial, by granting them more control over their participation – for example, by giving them more control over when or how particular interventions are delivered. Second, it can automatically capture and transmit data that would have previously been manually recorded, allowing the managers of such trails to gain a more precise and less cumbersome picture of outcomes and performance.
As a result, the IoT can enable clinical trials to be carried out more cost-effectively and flexible, over wider areas and groups of participants – which, ultimately, leads to more effective trials and more medical innovations.
Use case 3: Optimising hospital workflows
A great deal of healthcare efficiency depends not on medical interventions, but on the same challenges faced by all sectors – how to keep large and disparate workforces operating at maximum efficiency, for example. In hospitals, where a vast number of both medical and non-medical staff need to seamlessly collaborate together – 24/7 – the IoT can be invaluable in powering more efficient ways of working. For example, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and communications systems can track the movement of staff throughout a hospital, enabling automatic analysis of bottlenecks and allowing managers to make informed decisions about how best to optimise workflows.
The healthcare sector has a huge amount to gain from the IoT, from the sharp end of patient treatment and monitoring, through to the softer end of staff working practices and collaboration. This is one area in which connected operations truly can save lives.