The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects that can share electronic information when gathered together. They include sensors that have the ability to track information about the human body or industrial machines that transmit the production process data to the nearby sensors.
The IoT is all over and is used in smart homes and even retail. It also plays a crucial role in healthcare. The IoT in healthcare has multiple applications and has even been given a new name Medical IoT or Healthcare IoT.
These devices can help reduce treatment costs, improve patient care, and make treatments more effective. This is especially necessary now because healthcare services are costly. The number of chronic diseases is increasing, and the global population is aging.
Over the recent years, the devices that are IoT enabled have improved and made remote patient monitoring possible. Physicians have been empowered to monitor and keep their patients safe and healthy remotely.
One of the most obvious benefits of using remote IoT devices to monitor patients remotely is to decrease hospital length. By sending a continuous flow of data about a patient’s condition, treatment can be adjusted more easily, leading to better treatment outcomes.
How to acquire and deal with an expanding flow of medical data
The rapid increase in products that are linked to healthcare is creating a lot of opportunities for improvement. The vast amount of data produced by these connected devices has the ability to bring about a lot of changes to healthcare, including new treatments when combining big data and Artificial Intelligence.
There is a four-step architecture involved with any IoT system. All the steps are interconnected so that all the data is collected and processed at one step, and it provides more value for the next step. The connected values in all the different stages bring about intuition and provide strong business prospects.
- The first stage of the process is all about the deployment of connected devices, including camera systems, monitors, sensors, actuators, or detectors. These are devices that are in charge of collecting data.
- The second stage involves the conversion of analog data to digital form. This is because all the data that’s provided by the sensors is usually not in digital form. Therefore, it must be aggregated and converted.
- The next step is to move the aggregated data to a cloud or data center. Amazon HealthLake is the perfect example of such a data repository. After being aggregated, it has to be pre-processed and standardized, then moved to the cloud.
- The last and fourth step is managing and analyzing all the data at the needed level. Effective healthcare insights have to be brought about by advanced analytics that is applied to the data collected. This helps with correct decision-making and improving patient outcomes.
Users of IoT devices in healthcare
There are many uses of IoT that benefit insurance companies, patients, physicians, hospitals, and families. The following are some of the benefits Internet of Things offers the different groups.
The IoT for hospitals
IoT devices do more than monitor patients. They greatly help in other areas, too, in hospitals. The IoT devices have sensors that are used to track medical equipment and provide real-time data. Medical staff being deployed in different regions can be analyzed in real-time as well.
Therefore, IoT devices that monitor hygiene reduce the chances of patients getting infected. They also play roles in asset management, like temperature control, environmental monitoring, or pharmacy inventory control.
The IoT for patients
Various medical devices come in wearables and different wireless connected devices, like heart rate and blood pressure monitors. Elderly patients especially benefit from the devices to keep track of their health, mostly if they live far from their families or live alone. If any changes would trigger health complications, signals are sent to concerned physicians and family members.
Ingestible sensors are also a new way to establish a diagnosis. By swallowing a simple pill, doctors now can analyze the full digestive tract. For those of you who had to undergo a fiberscope exam or a colonoscopy, no doubt that swallowing a pill, even a big one, is a favored option. Numerous companies are working on such an approach.
The IoT for physicians
With medical devices, like wearables and other IoT embedded equipment, physicians can keep track of their patient’s health data and monitor their health much better. With the amount of data collected by the devices, the physicians can monitor their patients’ compliance to their treatments and collect their health information and vitals 24/7.
They can also learn if the patients need immediate medication treatment. Medical professionals can be keener in monitoring their patients and connecting with them from the data the devices collect. The amount of data collected by the IoT devices effectively assists physicians in finding the best medication treatment for patients to get the best results.
Main benefits of Internet of Things in Healthcare
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing healthcare in different ways, including improving the care patients get, better results from treatments, and reducing the costs of treatments for patients. Patients get to connect better with the healthcare providers, and their performance is also enhanced.
The main benefits it has brought about to the healthcare industry include:
- Real-time monitoring of patients remotely, which reduces the costs incurred during readmissions and doctor visits. Recently, Philips received FDA clearance for its wireless biosensor to monitor remotely and safely Covid-19 patients.
- Errors are much less likely to occur with IoT devices. The data plays an essential role in ensuring effective decision-making, and all the operations in the healthcare industry are functioning smoothly. This helps reduce the overall number of errors.
- The quality of treatment received is excellent since physicians make decisions from evidence-based information. Hence there’s complete transparency.
- Equipment and drugs are better managed. It has always been a significant challenge to manage drugs and equipment in healthcare. However, with devices being connected, the drugs and equipment are utilized and managed efficiently, which helps with cost reduction.
- Diagnosis is much faster and more accurate. A patient can be diagnosed more efficiently due to consistent remote monitoring. Real-time data is collected, and it helps with the diagnosis of a vast number of different diseases. They are diagnosed at an early stage before they worsen or even before the disease develops fully.
Medical IoT devices are revolutionizing how healthcare is delivered and monitored. We guess that we still have only seen the tip of the iceberg. In the years to come, the question will not be if we are connected but how we will be connected and protect our privacy: digital tattoos, smartwatches, smart lenses, or smart pills being just some of the possibilities.
What are the risks linked to Medical IoT?
In 2018, it came as a surprise to learn that Insurer John Hancock required life insurance subscribers to wear a fitness tracker and exercise enough to see their premium decreases. On top of being intrusive, this trend could be seen as in contradiction with HIPAA regulations that protect the privacy of medical information.
The internet of Medical IoT also carries numerous risks when it comes to cyber-attacks. Potential security threats associated with healthcare technologies need to be addressed at the early stages of their design and maintain continuously. With implantable cardiac and glucose monitors and devices, cybersecurity is paramount to ensure peace of mind for both the patients and the payers.