The healthcare industry has gone digital in a big way in recent years. The impact of digital technologies like IoT devices and monitors is changing the way doctors and hospitals administer care for their patients, and it’s a positive trend that is helping to simplify healthcare, lower costs, and improve access to critical medical information.
The global market for what’s now known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is expected to grow from $41 billion in 2017 to $158 billion in 2022. Connected IoT sensors provide a continuous stream of real-time health data and vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure and glucose monitoring. And we’re now seeing IoMT device rollout with ultrasounds, thermometers, EKGs, smart beds, and a range of other medical devices.
Important Benefits of IoT in Healthcare
IoT implementations have unquestioned benefits for both doctors and the patients they treat. Among the most common benefits:
- Improved Patient Experience: The more connected patients are to their doctors and families, the better their experience with healthcare. Remote monitoring of vital signs and symptoms makes physical spaces smarter, improving efficiency of operations and clinical tasks – contributing to a more personalized experience.
- Faster and More Precise Diagnosis: Real-time data provided from personal monitoring devices (such as glucose and blood pressure) help doctors make more informed decisions. They provide data to analyze past treatments, diagnose symptoms, reduce errors, and improve ongoing disease management.
- Lower Costs: Remote IoT monitoring reduces operational costs for doctors’ offices and hospitals. Electronically managed healthcare information is also less costly to access and analyze than paper records (with the caveat that connected devices and transmitted information undergo proper security protocol).
Common Uses of IoT in Healthcare
IoMT use cases are popping up all over the healthcare landscape. Among the most popular and impactful examples of IoT in healthcare:
With more than 100 million adults in the U.S. living with diabetes or prediabetes, blood glucose monitoring has become a vital, booming business. In the old days, diabetic patients were forced to use fingertip pricks to test blood glucose levels. This inconvenient method, unfortunately, leads some patients to check less frequently than they should, which could increase the risk of long-term complications. A lack of real-time data made patients more vulnerable to extreme swings in glucose levels that could have severe health consequences.
A wave of new IoT-based glucose monitoring devices, however, promises to streamline diabetes management. Patients use wearable sensors that read glucose levels and integrate the data directly to a reader and a mobile tracking app on a smartphone. The data is delivered wirelessly to a centralized system so that family and healthcare professionals can receive immediate updates when a glucose reading is taken and monitor diseases like diabetes in real-time.
Smart IoT devices such as connected personal wearables are creating an innovative new environment of “hospitals without walls,” where outpatient and long-term care are delivered remotely by doctors to patients right in their homes. The benefits are convenience and speed of care to patients, and the freeing up of hospital bed space for patients who need in person intensive care. One example of a virtual hospital is in Sydney, Australia, which opened just as the pandemic was taking hold in 2020. The hospital was redesigned to provide remote care for patients exhibiting COVID symptoms by using pulse oximeters (clipped to a finger) to measure oxygen saturation level and heart rates, as well as armpit patches to measure body temperature. Data was instantly transmitted via mobile phone app to the virtual hospital staff.
Today’s smart labs are comprised of lab equipment capable of tracking and transmitting scientific and health-related data. Researchers and healthcare professionals across disciplines are able to capture and share accurate lab data with each other, and do it quickly to speed analysis. Alerts can also be set up to mitigate equipment failures and loss of valuable product information and materials, including lost medical samples. Smart labs provide a better medium for collaboration between researchers and the ability to bring important medical products to the market faster for public consumption.
COVID Impact on IoT in Healthcare
Since the pandemic began, there has been a dramatic ramp-up of innovation in the healthcare space. Healthcare providers are now more regularly connecting with patients via video chat, and the use of various remote monitoring IoT devices contribute to real-time care without a patient needing to see a doctor in person. The transition has been further supported by insurance payers, some of whom have issued waivers that allow payment parity for health care delivered either via telehealth or in person. As the world emerges from the pandemic, virtual care is expected to continue as the new normal, and even routine follow-up and feedback could potentially be avoided entirely.
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Conclusion: Hitting It Home With IoT in Healthcare
Healthcare may be one of the most visible industries leveraging IoT devices for the good of people everywhere. From continuous health monitoring to virtual hospitals and labs, IoT is having a dramatic impact, and anyone can get a start in the exciting field of IoT with the right training and preparation.