In an environment where healthcare remains notably expensive to the average citizen, the overall age of the global population is increasing, and the prevalence of chronic diseases is on the rise, the advent of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) shows promise in helping healthcare facilities operate more efficiently. The Internet of Things is commonly defined as “A network of everyday devices, appliances, and other objects equipped with computer chips and sensors that can collect and transmit data through the Internet.” At home, this means refrigerators, thermostats, and other gadgets that collect data and pair with apps or websites to keep us informed. In a healthcare environment, the IoT is showing up in everything from interconnected monitoring in exam rooms and test facilities, to smart charts that upload patient data directly to their doctor’s files.
In addition to in-facility care, however, the phenomenon of the Internet of Things has the potential to move the healthcare industry away from its current hospital-centric focus to a model centered on in-home care, which will be more efficient and convenient for both patients and caregivers. In the new millennium alone, technology has changed the practice of healthcare in important ways. Improved surgical techniques, superior imaging, better health record management, and video chat consultations are just a few of the ways in which technology has made its mark. The rise of healthcare related Internet of Things—which began in earnest in 2009 with the adoption of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HI.T.ECH)—will be the next.
Here are four ways that this interconnected technology will provide business benefits to healthcare providers that will allow them to work more efficiently, save money, and decrease costs while providing quicker, more thorough patient care.
- Monitoring and Reporting
With the Internet of Things, the nearly instantaneous sharing of information between connected equipment makes monitoring and combining every aspect of a patient’s health care easier. And, bluntly put, this type of sharing and reporting can save lives. Chronic but not immediately obvious diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, or asthma can result in deadly complications during an unrelated ER visit. Confusion over prescriptions and dosages can likewise cause huge problems. But real-time monitoring and reporting via connected devices and records can keep doctors and staff informed and up-to-date as patients are treated.
The Center of Connected Health Policy recently conducted a study that found that there is a 50-percent reduction in the 30-day readmission rate because of remote monitoring on heart failure patients. The study itself took advantage of the IoT, which helped in collecting and transferring relevant health data (such as blood pressure, oxygen and blood sugar levels, and weight). The data was stored via cloud computing and shared with the authors of the study as well as doctors and facilities.
- Connectivity and Affordability
It is no secret that patient care has become increasingly automated as technology has made that possible. The Internet of Things is enhancing automation efforts as mobility solutions and next generation health-care facilities become increasingly feasible. The increase in automation has been furthered by the fact that the IoT enables interoperability, machine-to-machine communication, reliable information exchange, and secure data sharing. The net effect is not only better patient care, but also a decrease in the cost of business operations.
Processing huge loads of data is not only time consuming, but also expensive. When patient data is spread throughout multiple systems in multiple facilities, it may not be easy for a doctor to do vital research, given normal patient loads and staff availability. This distribution of records also makes comparative studies more difficult and expensive to carry out. With the help of IoT devices and cloud computing, collecting, reporting, and sharing data, as well as analysis can occur in real time. This not only speeds up diagnosis but also saves money by cutting out the need to store the raw data.
- System Alerts and Remote Care
On-time alert systems are critical in life-threatening circumstances. The Internet of Things allows devices to gather vital data and transfer that information to doctors for real-time patient care tracking. Doctors and nurses can receive notifications about critical issues via mobile apps and other linked devices. These alerts keep caregivers in the loop regarding a patient’s condition, no matter the time of day, or the location of the doctor. Even on-duty caregivers benefit, as a surplus of information helps in making informed decisions and providing urgent aid when needed.
IoT devices also have the capacity to give more accurate diagnostics and recommendations for practitioners. In the event of an emergency, for instance, a patient may be able to use an app to contact their doctor directly, rather than passing down the traditional chain of emergency technicians and on-call staff. What’s more, healthcare technology providers are looking into the possibility of being able to proactively predict patient prescriptions based on health data available via linked devices.
- Better Management of Medication
The Internet of Things provides solutions that allow for better management of drugs as well as ensuring a better understanding of and adherence to instructions by patients. Interconnected machines sharing data allow hospital staff to spend less time searching for drug information, tracking regulations, and inventorying supplies. IoT monitoring solutions have demonstrated that they can help patients adhere to their treatment schedules while allowing doctors to track compliance with prescriptions.
These are of course just a few of the many benefits that technology and the IoT bring to healthcare providers and facilities. As with every industry, technology is revolutionizing the way that healthcare facilities operate. Unimpeded access to up-to-date, accurate information is a vital component of patient care, and Information Technology is no longer an afterthought for clinics and hospitals, but an essential part of the healthcare puzzle.
To learn more about how you can incorporate stronger networks, backup, and interconnectivity into your healthcare practice, contact JMARK today.