Healthcare is a type of industry that is getting smarter fast.
Today, computer-navigated surgery helps make precise surgical operations. Smart hospitals create a fully automated environment that monitors patients’ state 24/7, and electronic records keep all data about the patients in one place.
But one of the most promising technologies in healthcare is the Internet of Things, which helps to optimize the working processes of both doctors and service providers.
Let’s see how exactly IoT helps medical workers and their patients, what are its pros and cons, and how IoT can help us during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Healthcare as the Most Promising IoT Field
Experts believe that the IoT-based healthcare market has enormous potential. It seems that the whole industry is perfect for this technology.
The concept of collecting medical data and physical health information with special sensors to process it later solves many issues – from early diagnosis to non-stop monitoring.
According to specialists’ estimates, the total revenue generated by the IoT healthcare sector is going to reach $534.3 billion in 2025. Meanwhile, 73% of the hospitals using IoT report on the increase in early diagnosis rates.
What Is the Internet of Medical Things?
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a network of devices that collect medical data and share it with other devices or medical specialists.
IoMT monitors the patient’s state and helps doctors get information in real time. The whole network may include several devices like wearables, monitoring and drug tracking systems, medical supply chains, and so on.
It helps increase the overall efficiency of the routine workflow, provides higher diagnosis accuracy, and allows patients to stay in touch with doctors all the time.
The Core Benefits of the Healthcare IoT
There’s no need to explain that applying IoT technologies in the healthcare sector has a lot of benefits.
Let’s have a closer look at the most important ones.
Continuous Tracking and Monitoring
Special IoT-based apps get and process signals sent by wearables (like smartwatches, fit trackers). In the case of an emergency like a heart or asthma attack, the app immediately sends an SOS signal.
A Fall Detection System in Apple Watch is a great example. If the watch owner falls, the app shows an alert on the screen. The user must click the “I am OK” button within one minute. If they don’t do that, the app automatically sends a signal to emergency services.
Improving Interaction with Patients
Some apps help to enhance the patient experience, for example, by reducing the waiting time. With the help of smart apps, the patients who need help get in touch with doctors much faster.
Another example is the AutoBed app that finds available beds for newly admitted patients, reducing their waiting time.
Medication Intake Control
IoT helps to manage medication intake by making precise measurements of its amount. Also, smart apps remind patients of the need to take a pill.
Some apps can even notify the patient’s relatives about a missed medicine dose.
Automation of Administrative Tasks
IoT-enabled devices collect and analyze large volumes of information. By doing so, they help to optimize the workflow of medical specialists’.
These devices quickly create various metrics reflecting the patients’ progress, which saves doctors’ time. Also, they help make more precise diagnoses as they store a lot of data about the patient.
Personalized Treatment and Prevention
IoT devices help patients with chronic diseases by tracking their condition and storing this information. By analyzing the data, specialists can work out personalized recommendations for particular patients.
Also, smart devices can immediately detect subtle changes in the condition and send the information to a doctor before the first symptoms appear.
Problems of Healthcare IoT
While the Internet of Things is a really promising technology that can bring a lot of benefits to healthcare specialists, it’s not perfect. Here are some problems you may come across when dealing with IoT in healthcare.
Healthcare app developers know that their products must comply with CCPA and GDPR requirements. These documents protect the personal and medical data of patients.
The concept of IoT technology includes transferring sensitive information, which can be accessed by hackers. This is why data protection is the first thing you should think about.
An IoT-based system can consist of many devices. These devices can use different standards and protocols. To make the system function as it should, you have to integrate these protocols.
The popular protocols for healthcare apps are HIPAA and HITECH, as they offer many regulations associated with patients’ medical data processing.
Storing and processing huge volumes of information can also be quite a challenge. Sometimes, it gives a reverse effect and reduces the accuracy of making diagnoses.
How the IoT Can Help Us Fight Coronavirus
Let’s face it: worldwide quarantine and self-isolation will affect not only our mental health or business. It will also speed up the automation processes. And, of course, the adoption of IoT.
Here’s how IoT devices can – and already do – help doctors treat patients effectively while keeping everyone safe.
Help to track COVID-19 exposure
Sadly, no smart device (not yet at least) can tell if a person is infected or not. But they can work as an early warning system for illness spreading.
It’s what smart thermometers do.
Kinsa Health company provided smart thermometers to more than a million people at home so they could record fevers as soon as they experience them. Previously, Kinsa’s interactive maps have predicted the spread of flu in the US, and now the devices may be turning up cases of coronavirus.
Monitor hospital bed availability
Desk occupancy sensor from Elsys can show which hospital beds are available and which not. If a hospital has the capacity for a few thousand people, the medical workers having a clear picture of where to locate new patients could ease admissions.
These devices are completely wireless, battery-operated, and have a compact design ideal for indoor use. ERS Desk is equipped with a thermopile which detects presence based on body heat as well as motion.
Help with asset tracking
With medical equipment like a ventilator being in high demand, asset trackers can provide real-time, accurate details on the physical location of important devices or even people.
Sensors like the one LoRaWAN makes are working on distances up to 15 km from the nearest LoRa gateway. They can be attached to key medical equipment like oxygen tanks or ventilators.
By knowing how many devices they have, and which room these devices are in, doctors can move crucial resources faster.
Also, hospitals can set up geofencing to alert staff when equipment is to another floor or hospital room.
Sure, the application IoT in healthcare is not limited by the use cases I’ve described. IoT is also used in Hospital Information Management systems, electronic records, mobile healthcare, and many other fields.
And these days, when doctors and medical workers risk their lives to fight the pandemic, all these smart devices are a huge asset to them.