Healthcare has always been dependent on collecting and analyzing data. Better information generates more precise diagnoses and more effective treatment prescriptions.
Developing internet of things (IoT) solutions for the healthcare industry has been challenging, but IoT devices have seen significant adoption in the healthcare industry throughout the past couple of decades. Now, the IoT is helping healthcare professionals make massive strides in collecting and analyzing high value data, and transforming healthcare overall.
IoT devices use IoT SIM cards to connect to cellular networks and share data between devices and with centralized data processing. The IoT is a collection of IoT devices which are capable of gathering and transmitting all sorts of data to processing stations where it can be analyzed to produce actionable insights.
IoT devices range from smart appliances and equipment to personal wearable devices. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are not considered IoT devices. However, these traditional devices often serve as central data aggregation and processing stations in IoT networks.
Here’s how IoT devices are changing the face of the healthcare industry.
Real-time and historical health monitoring
Wearable devices have given healthcare professionals access to information that was once difficult or impossible to collect.
Consumer-grade wearable devices increasingly collect biomedical information that’s incredibly valuable for diagnostics and health monitoring. Smart watches and other devices are capable of monitoring heart rates, body temperature, blood pressure, and other health information.
In some applications, this enables health conscious individuals to monitor certain health markers in real-time and make better health decisions. However, even in casual use, wearable devices store historical data which helps spot health trends which have traditionally required frequent visits to a physician.
IoT wearables are even capable of tracking metrics such as blood sugar and delivering some treatments, such as insulin for diabetics.
This enables healthcare providers to take a more proactive approach to medical care and improve cost efficiency by diagnosing problems earlier and resolving health issues with less intensive treatments.
Overall, IoT devices are able to deliver more precise, up-to-the-minute health data that give healthcare providers a more complete picture for diagnostics and treatment.
Telehealth is quickly becoming a staple in healthcare delivery. And Telehealth minimizes person-to-person contact and is more convenient for patients and physicians.
Obviously, telehealth isn’t viable for everything, but it’s an excellent tool that helps healthcare providers treat more patients and minimizes risk. However, IoT solutions have enabled healthcare professionals to use telehealth for more active healthcare roles such as remote health monitoring.
This differs from the consumer wearable device use case in that it relies on more specialized IoT devices such as blood oxygen saturation monitors and blood glucose sensors that deliver real-time data streams to healthcare providers, rather than simply providing a broader data pool for use during scheduled visits.
Real-time health monitoring has been implemented to supplement ongoing care during pregnancy, improve care for people with ongoing conditions such as dementia, and free up hospital beds by making it possible to turn inpatient procedures into outpatient procedures or shorten hospital stays after more invasive treatments.
In addition to offering better telehealth capabilities, IoT-powered telehealth is accessible to more patients.
Most IoT devices can operate on cellular networks. Cellular networks are more ubiquitous in remote areas and developing regions. This grants access to telehealth services to patients who live in these parts of the world where high-speed internet and wi-fi are not universally available.
With IoT, providing healthcare presents less risk to patients and healthcare professionals, helps patients stay in constant contact with physicians, and enables healthcare providers to serve patients who previously had limited access to medical resources.
Better data collection enables hospitals and other healthcare facilities to optimize shift schedules, improve patient monitoring, and provide better communication tools for separated medical teams such as ambulances and emergency room staff to streamline critical incident response.
This reduces staffing requirements without negatively impacting the quality of care. Optimized staffing also reduces fatigue and work stress for healthcare professionals.
Additionally, IoT solutions help optimize utility usage though relatively simple devices such as motion sensors that automatically turn lights off and adjust temperature controls. These same sensors also improve security for medical facilities.
This reduces overhead costs, so healthcare companies can invest more in training and developing better treatments.
IoT is transforming healthcare right now
IoT solutions are already making a splash in the healthcare industry. However, the potential for IoT to even further transform healthcare is great, and healthcare companies understand this potential.
The global market for remote monitoring and portable medical devices has been expanding, and the worldwide healthcare IoT market is expected to reach about $43 billion by 2027. In fact, more than half, 53 percent, of hospitals in the U.S. have already implemented remote patient monitoring systems.
Ultimately, the IoT transformation of the healthcare industry is already happening, and it’s only going to accelerate over the coming decades.