Healthcare is set to be revolutionised when the Internet of Things (IoT) gains momentum. It’s such a vast ecosystem that the applications for the IoT seem endless. There’s the potential for remote patient monitoring, improved clinical trials and even treating disease. It won’t just help to keep patients fit and healthy, but it’ll change how clinicians deliver care, understand our bodies and fight disease.
Equipping hospitals, devices and patients with sensors will provide a wealth of data. Reporting back on health, care and the healthcare environment in real-time.
That’s why the appetite for the IoT is increasing. Worldwide spending on the IoT in healthcare is anticipated to grow from $41.22 billion in 2017 to reach $405.65 billion by 2026. 87 per cent of healthcare organisations will adopt IoT technology in 2019.
Tracking and monitoring
Through the IoT, patients and equipment can be seamlessly tracked. At home, patients can wear sensors that monitor their vital details – something that’s particularly useful for those with chronic conditions like diabetes. It avoids constant visits to a clinic and removes some of the inaccuracies caused by white coat syndrome. Real-time data can be automatically added to patient records, removing the need for doctors and nurses to manually enter data, giving them more time to focus on patient care.
Plus, hospitals will be able to track expensive – and dangerous – medical equipment. Scalpels and other tools can be ‘counted’ in and out via a connected system, with alerts flagged if an item is missing.
Keeping people at home
The IoT can also be used to help people maintain their independence. Smart homes can monitor occupants’ health. Clinicians can remotely check how their patients are doing and step in when required. The Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) project is experimenting with the IoT to improve in-home dementia care and monitoring.
Given the ageing populations in many developed countries, there’ll likely be high demand for IoT devices that help with long-term care.
Ensuring patient compliance
According to the World Health Organisation, 50 per cent of medicines are not taken as directed. Ingestible IoT sensors can monitor patient health and adherence, giving clinicians an early warning if medication isn’t being taken as directed or having the desired effect. This will also help clinical trials, making the data collected more accurate and real-time.
In some cases, wearable sensors can predict symptoms before they arise. Apple’s ResearchKit has recently been used in an epilepsy study, where the Apple Watch was used to detect the onset and duration of seizures.
Security must improve
For the IoT to be adopted by all healthcare settings, however, the security of devices must be assured. The IoT is at significant risk of hacks – especially when sensitive health data is involved. The stakes are high in IoT healthcare and cybersecurity standards must reflect this.
Lots of value
The IoT will unlock much value in healthcare. As devices increase in complexity and maturity, more healthcare organisations will embrace them, especially when concerns surrounding its security are addressed. When it does, our health will be transformed. Clinicians and hospitals will be more informed, trials will run with greater efficiency and, most importantly, patients will become healthier.
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