Internet of Things in Healthcare : How and Why?

Engineering
Gurzu Engineer

In one of their blogs, Andersson Horowitz predicted something noteworthy: a consumer healthcare technology company will be the biggest company in the world.

Healthcare alone makes up 20% of the US GDP; however, healthcare companies still have a massive potential to make their services even more cutting edge - by implementing the newest technologies. More and more people are voicing their concerns about cracks in the healthcare systems - even in the most developed countries.

So, what does the future of healthcare encompass? Is the internet of things the solution to healthcare problems of today? And what exactly does IoT in health technology cover? Let’s discuss:

IoT in Healthcare: What is it?

Simply speaking, the IoT in healthcare (aka the internet of medical things) describes the use of connected devices and sensors to automate the plethora of tasks a healthcare service provider needs to perform. Collecting patient data, monitoring vital signs and managing treatments are some of the common actions IoT can automate. When closely analyzed, this data can provide insight into trends and patterns and improve patient outcomes.

For example, IoT can help doctors identify early warning signs of disease, track treatment progress, or predict how a patient will respond to medication.

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For example, IoT can help doctors identify early warning signs of disease, track treatment progress, or predict how a patient will respond to medication. IoT services reduce the need for expensive diagnostic tests and hospitalization, therefore, lowering the overall healthcare costs.

The combination of health tech and the Internet of things has also given us excellent opportunities to improve our well-being. We can now track our exercise and nutrition habits with a few clicks, get instant feedback from medical experts on any health-related queries, and even use virtual reality or augmented reality systems to help manage chronic illnesses. IoT can also help patients better manage their health by providing real-time feedback on their condition.

Now, healthcare professionals have the power to monitor their patients remotely—and even detect signs of illness before they happen! This is truly a revolutionary development, allowing quicker and more effective treatments that can save lives.

With its ability to automate mundane tasks, the Internet of Medical Things has also made life easier for overworked healthcare providers. In short: it’s no surprise that health tech is improving our world.

Technologies used on the Internet of Medical Things

A full-fledged IoT system is a good combination of both hardware (sensors, networks) and softwares. Some of the examples of what kind of technologies and devices are used in IoMT are:

  • Sensors in pharmaceutical shipments that measure temperature, shock, humidity, and tilt
  • End-to-end visibility solutions that track personalized medicine for a specific patient using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and barcodes
  • Drones that offer faster last-mile delivery
  • Specialized software that tracks health data 
  • Data visualization software

Other important technologies in IoMT include:

Wearables

Devices that report location information and vital signs in real-time are intended to improve patient safety, particularly for elderly patients and those with dementia.

  • Devices that report location information and vital signs in real-time are intended to improve patient safety, particularly for elderly patients and those with dementia. 
  • smart belts with fall detection 
  • Smart tablets, or minute ingestible sensors that provide information on patient’s stomach fluid levels, etc 

Asset Tracking/Equipment Management

Hospitals’ effective management of their assets and equipment can impact the quality of care they provide. Hospitals use solutions that use GPS, RFID, or barcode systems to keep track of their inventory and ensure all medical devices are in good working condition.

Data-driven Healthcare

As the name suggests - the healthcare system is trying to leverage the power of data to improve patient outcomes, increase efficiency and reduce costs. 

For example, electronic medical records are widely used these days to gain insight into patients’ populations, trends in treatment protocols, and customized healthcare plans accordingly.

Real-time alerts system can notice any fluctuations in vitals of a patient, and immediately notify care givers.

Data-driven analytics has a huge potential to improve operational efficiency and optimize clinical decision making. By leveraging the power of data, healthcare providers can ensure that their patients receive the best possible care while staying within budget. 

Challenges in Health technology

Of course, as with any new technology, there are also some potential downsides, including privacy concerns, ethical dilemmas, and the risk of information overload. From data accuracy, to keeping up with security protocols, there is a lot to consider regarding health tech. Using technology for medical treatments often means dealing with legacy systems and complicated processes that can make implementing new solutions difficult.

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One good real-life example of how poor technology can bring disorder and confusion is the ‘let doctors be doctors’ campaign. 

Starting in 2018, a large number of doctors and healthcare professionals stated their dissatisfaction with EHRS technology, mentioning that they were spending more time in front of computers than in front of patients. As non-clinicians designed the technology, it was challenging to use, had many performance issues, and surfaced in many useless data. It shows that a poorly designed technology can do more harm than good, and it goes a lot of research into making these technologies friendly, usable, and helpful.

However, the biggest challenge at our hands might be to actually have a system that is accessible and affordable to all. In many parts of the world, people do not have access to even the most basic healthcare services, and in many developed countries, the healthcare system is expensive and slow. Many people argue that we should work on fixing those problems first before working towards other high-end technologies.

But at the same time, these technologies offer incredible potential for improving our lives in ways that were never possible. And that’s why we should continue to explore them and discover their full potential — to ensure they’re used for good.

Advantages of IoT in healthcare    

Whether you’re a healthcare professional looking to revolutionize patient care, an individual wanting to stay healthy, or just someone curious about this new technology —the Internet of things in healthcare technology has something to offer everyone. Let’s summarize them:

Improved Patients’ Comfort: The use of wearables and optimized monitoring services will ultimately improve patients’ comfort.

Enhanced physician Decision-Making: Doctors, with their entire records and data of all the patients, can make easy diagnoses and provide predictive healthcare.

Better Treatment: It gives complete openness and empowers doctors to make decisions based on the best available data.

Early Diagnosis of Illness: Patient monitoring and real-time data might assist diagnose diseases at an early stage or even before they emerge.

Proactive Care: Continuous health monitoring makes it possible to provide proactive medical treatment.

Cost Cutting: The Internet of things makes it possible to monitor patients in real-time, reducing the number of pointless doctor visits, hospital stays, and re-admissions.

Staff Safety: Environmental sensors can optimize hospital storage, manage the occupancy of hospital rooms, monitor for leaks or dysfunctional systems, and help in cleaning. 

Final Words

The healthcare industry is one of the many sectors that stands to benefit from the IoT. Healthcare providers can collect and exchange data more efficiently and effectively by connecting medical devices and systems to the Internet. This, in turn, can lead to improved patient care and outcomes. The Internet of things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and make it more personalized, efficient, and affordable. 

That covers it for health tech and the IoT. It’s clear that these new advancements have a lot to offer us—from improved patient care to better individual well-being. We’re excited to see what other unique possibilities this technology holds in store for us!

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