(Photo via Foter.com)
In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has impacted our everyday lives in unexpected and exciting ways. From smart refrigerators to phone apps that let you control features of your home remotely, IoT technology makes it easier than ever to bring the power of online connectivity to the physical world. One of the best places to observe just how far IoT has come in a few short years is within the healthcare industry. Thanks to advanced connectivity options, doctors can treat patients much more efficiently, reducing costs and improving care quality now and in the future.
Here is what you need to know about how IoT is changing healthcare for the better.
What Is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things refers to technology that allows physical objects such as vehicles and appliances to gather, store, and transmit data via internet connectivity. Usually, this is accomplished by equipping the objects with sensors and software.
IEEE Spectrum reports that the number of IoT enabled devices increased by 31% in the year 2017 alone, and projects that there will be 30 billion connected devices by 2020. The expansion of the Internet of Things has been rapid and explosive, and its impact is still being felt across multiple fields. One of the most exciting new frontiers for “smart” devices is within the healthcare industry, where they have the potential to save time and improve patient outcomes.
What Are Some Revolutionary IoT Healthcare Applications?
It’s not difficult to think of examples of IoT within the healthcare industry—the applications are limited only by developers’ imaginations. From remote monitoring to ensuring medication compliance, IoT has the potential to take much of the guesswork out of interactions between doctors and patients. It even has the ability to eliminate the need for routine office visits, thanks to wearable technology that would allow doctors and patients to connect in real time. Here are several applications that are in the process of being developed and adopted:
Medical Device Integration
Thanks to IoT technology, patients can take a more active role in providing information that can assist their doctors. Data from a Fitbit, for example, can be transmitted to give healthcare providers an accurate picture of the patient’s level of physical activity. Currently, JFK Health System is researching ways to integrate blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, thermometers, and other devices that measure vital signs so that information is constantly and automatically updated. In addition, patients can connect their in-home medical devices to IoT-enabled networks, letting doctors monitor their progress remotely without the need for office visits. This streamlines the process of tracking health signs while reducing the likelihood of errors, giving healthcare providers more time to devote to their patients.
IoT has been widely adopted in retail settings to help with inventory management, and the healthcare industry is starting to do the same. One of the most useful applications is in pharmaceuticals, as the availability of drugs can be closely monitored without needing to have a person count the available units. Sensors can track the usage of everything from blood and plasma to everyday medical supplies, ensuring that all inventory is accounted for.
As IoT devices become more readily available at lower price points, hospitals are increasingly adopting them in order to improve efficiency and patient care. Equipping ID badges and wristbands with IoT sensors allows hospitals to track throughput and identify inefficiencies, allowing them to improve workflow over time. By tracking healthcare providers and patients through network-enabled devices, hospital staff can reduce bottlenecks and ensure that the people in their care get help quickly and effectively.
Improving Patient Engagement
According to TechTarget, patients who use wearable IoT devices such as blood glucose monitors have an improved sense of engagement and reduced readmission rates. Wearables allow patients to take control of their health and keep doctors in the loop about their progress, leading to better outcomes as well as reduced medical costs. IoT devices have also been shown to encourage better medication adherence by giving patients the ability to track and manage their illnesses themselves. Since people who feel a sense of responsibility and agency are more likely to take an active role in their health, IoT devices are a valuable tool for achieving positive results.
What Challenges Remain?
Of course, with rapid change comes a set of new challenges for healthcare professionals to overcome. Here are some of the obstacles standing in the way of widespread IoT adoption:
Many healthcare systems and large hospitals already struggle to make use of all the data they gather, and adding IoT devices will only compound the problem. Rasu Shrestha, Chief Innovation Officer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, identifies problems with accuracy and lack of interoperability as two of the major problems facing increased IoT adoption in healthcare. He notes that there “isn’t really that much of a standard around how data is being captured,” which could lead to inaccuracies.
By enlisting the help of data scientists, large healthcare operations can impose industry-wide standards, handle the influx of medical data more efficiently, and figure out how best to use the information they gather using IoT technology.
Medical Device Security Concerns
As with any network-enabled technology, security is a major concern for medical IoT devices. Because so much sensitive data is being exchanged, steps must be taken to protect patient information and confidentiality. For instance, a patient’s home network or public Wi-Fi accessed by the device is likely not as secure as the hospital’s network, leaving the device vulnerable to being hacked. This is a complex problem to solve, but by improving security protocols and introducing deeper levels of audit trails, healthcare systems can help to ensure that patient data is protected.
The Internet of Things is here to stay. Is your network and I.T. infrastructure ready to support this technology? Is your I.T. team capable of handling the influx of changes and challenges that will come with IoT integration? JMARK can help you not only weather these changes, but take advantage of new technologies to thrive and position your organization at the head of your market To learn more, contact us today by calling 844-44-JMARK, sending an email to [email protected], or through the Contact Us page of this site.