7 Reasons The Internet of Things (IoT) Benefits Healthcare

Digital transformation has changed the way the healthcare industry operates. The shift to the use of electronic health records (EHR) over the last decade-plus and the 2014 push for “meaningful use” of EMRs (electronic medical records) in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act brought about the first major wave of changes. Now, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) another sort of digital transformation is coming to the world of healthcare. Coupling IoT and healthcare will lead to huge leaps forward for healthcare organizations in the areas of healthcare operations, healthcare monitoring, costs, patient outcomes, and beyond.

In this article, we will discuss 7 reasons IoT benefits healthcare and provide some practical examples of use cases and applications of IoT for healthcare organizations.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #1: Lower costs

From a business perspective, IoT will have a huge impact on costs in healthcare. For example, wearable technology will allow providers to capture data in real time and lead to fewer visits without compromising the quality of the data.  

Similarly, telehealth applications coupled with these wearable technologies can help bring quality healthcare for chronic health issues to remote and rural locations in a more affordable and effective manner. Patients with chronic health issues that were far aware from healthcare providers in the past had to deal with the high costs of multiple visits, and this can significantly impact the quality of care those patients receive. By coupling IoT and healthcare and adding telehealth to the equation, both providers and patients can benefit from lower costs.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #2: Improved connectivity & communications

One of the major paradigm shifts that is resulting from combining IoT and healthcare is the ability to better automate communication and create interoperability between medical machines and between different healthcare organizations. In the past, connecting providers with the data they need could be an arduous process in the healthcare industry. With IoT and healthcare, machine-to-machine communication is possible and patient outcomes can be improved as a result.

To conceptualize the connectivity benefits of IoT in the healthcare industry, consider the use of smart sensors within a healthcare organization. Not only can the sensors communicate data to enable proactive preventative maintenance, but they can also help ensure nurses have access to patient care data in real time.

From an engineering standpoint, developers and engineers of IoT solutions must be capable of meeting these demands without inconveniencing healthcare staff or patients. Tips to do so include: enabling secure Wi-Fi connectivity, maximizing battery life, and minimizing power consumption & footprint.

Modern Health Care with IoT and AI (Image courtesy of Pixabay) IoT and Healthcare

 

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #3: Enhanced Information Quality

The quality of available information can make a world of difference to a healthcare organization. By creating a web of healthcare-related IoT sensors that capture data and coupling it with Artificial Intelligence (AI), a world of new possibilities opens up. In short, because more data is available, better diagnosis and treatment plans are possible. AI and predictive analytics allow healthcare organizations to take the wealth of data created by IoT in healthcare and turn it into actionable information.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #4: Productivity Tracking

From an operations standpoint, IoT in healthcare organizations can help ensure that workflows are optimized and staff productivity is high. This is particularly important in large, complex medical facilities where hundreds or thousands of employees help make patient care possible. IoT devices can help determine if tests have been administered, ensure unauthorized access to restricted areas is not allowed (e.g. using smart cameras or smart wearables that grant access), and help with inventory control.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #5: Improved Drug Management

While IoT can help enable improved drug management from an inventory control perspective and increase the speed by which a drug is available once it is prescribed, there are other use cases as well. For example, the Abilify MyCite pill helps confirm if a patient is actually taking their prescribed drugs. Additionally, by adding intelligence to drug delivery equipment and devices that measure vital statistics, providers can help patients within a facility get the medication they need faster and do a better job at monitoring the effectiveness.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #6: Enabling Preventative Treatment

At its core, one of the main benefits of IoT is the wealth of data it generates. Coupled with AI and predictive analytics, this data can bring to light trends, correlations, and insights that may have otherwise remained hidden. By analyzing the data generated by wearables, smart hospital beds, blood pressure monitors, fitness trackers, and more, healthcare providers can become much more proactive in preventing health issues.

More data means more informed decisions and more precise diagnoses. It also means preventative treatment can be prescribed much earlier, which for many diseases can drastically improve patient health.

IoT and Healthcare Benefit #7: Improved Patient Outcomes

The final benefit we will discuss is the one that matters most: improved patient outcomes. More data, better communication, and enhanced analytic capacity will mean better healthcare outcomes for patients. With more granular data and real-time monitoring, healthcare organizations and providers can provide individualized assessments that are targeted to address highly specific issues with context.

Further, the preventative measures made possible by IoT in healthcare will help give patients a significantly better chance at avoiding or mitigating the severity of a variety of illnesses.  Similarly, IoT and the digital transformation occurring in the healthcare industry will allow patients to make more informed decisions about their own health.

What are Some Real-World Examples of IoT in Healthcare?

Examples of IoT in the healthcare industry that are enabling this sort of improved information quality include:

  • The CYCORE system that uses mobile and sensor technology to detect signs of dehydration and other symptoms related to radio therapy
  • Smart medical beds that are capable of communication with other devices (e.g. blood-pressure monitors) and are used to monitor patient vitals and adjust as needed.
  • The Abilify MyCite pill that can track if a patient swallowed a pill.
  • FloPatch is a smart bandage that detects blood flow.
  • AdhereTech’s smart pill bottles that help make prescription refills seamless.

Where does Total Phase Help Enable the Use of IoT in Healthcare?

Total Phase is committed to providing industry leading tools to enable the development and debugging of the embedded systems that make IoT possible. Most IoT devices are network-enabled embedded systems and our product line of host adapters and protocol analyzers can be used by engineers to develop secure and robust solutions.

For example, by using the latest diagnostic tools, developers can ensure their smart sensors are operating in an efficient manner that optimizes battery life by minimizing power consumption. Additionally, Total Phase products can help aid in the development of IoT solutions that have embedded systems security in mind to make sure they are capable of standing up to the stringent security demands in the healthcare sector.

Summary

At a high level, the benefits of IoT to the healthcare industry are: improved information quality, more efficient operations, and better patient outcomes. By leveraging IoT in their facilities, healthcare organizations can help ensure they are doing everything possible to provide the best quality of care they can. IoT enables insights and analytics that were previously out of reach and empowers patients and providers to make more informed healthcare decisions. Total Phase helps enable IoT in the healthcare industry by providing industry leading monitoring, debugging, and development tools for a variety of protocols used to develop the embedded systems that make up the Internet of Things.

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