Healthcare has the most potential use of IoT than any other sector. The combination of IoT and Healthcare will have immense benefits like health condition monitoring, self-care, discovering new methods for disease prevention and control examinations and diagnosis. A study by Statista shows that installation of almost 200 million healthcare IoT devices will be seen by the year 2025.
1. What is IoT?
IoT represents a network of devices. These devices are connected and can share information. Moreover, this does not refer to smartphones and PCs only. The idea behind the IoT is that any device can become a part of that network, such as cars, kitchen appliances, lighting control systems, air conditioning, etc,. Once they are connected, they can communicate with one another. The data collected can then be used to perform tasks.
2. What can IoT do for healthcare?
The IoT has already entered the field of medicine. In some state-of-the-art hospitals, you will be able to see it first-hand. Some examples are connected inhalers and insulin pens, as well as ingestible sensors. Devices can communicate with one another, transferring data and calling to action. This allows medical professionals to have a faster response time. Also, the IoT enables doctors to provide remote and around-the-clock medical assistance. The end result is better patient care. In this case, technological advancement and innovation are responsible for the lives saved.
On another hand, IoT can also make healthcare cheaper and efficient in the future. It can help in the creation of more customized and patient-oriented equipment. Moreover, IoT will also enable patients to get better access to data, personalized care; thus, leading to fewer visits to the hospital.
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3. Why IoT is the future of healthcare?
3.1. Better sanitation and disinfection of medical facilities and equipment
In order to protect the health of medical workers, companies like TMiRob, UVD, and Xenex Disinfection Services have invented self-driving internet-controlled robots that sanitize and disinfect surfaces in hospitals and healthcare centers. They can be remotely connected to apps, emitting UV rays to destroy viruses and other pathogens. As well as being sold in Japan, they are in use across China, Italy, and the USA.
According to the equipment manufacturer Terumo, they emit light waves between 200 and 315 nanometers to eliminate multidrug-resistant bacteria as well as the Ebola virus. In today’s climate, the LightStrike model has demonstrated to be 99.9% effective in destroying coronavirus pathogens on N95 masks, which is extremely beneficial amid the global shortage of protective equipment.
3.2. Medical trackers enable remote patient monitoring and diagnostics
For patients who are unable to leave their homes, fitness trackers and more specialized medical trackers can monitor vital signs and remotely transmit data to healthcare professionals. For wearables, designers should consider how PCB thickness impacts comfort as well as overall functionality.
For instance, smartwatches like Apple Watches and Fitbits can provide data on baseline heart rates. A study from Stanford University aims to build a new algorithm to spot unusual patterns in heart rate data, to let patients know when their bodies are in the process of recovery.
Scripps Research is doing a similar study, and they aim to help public health responders and individuals identify when they’re getting a respiratory-related viral illness, whether it’s COVID-19, or the flu. While more research is needed to make detection more accurate, this can potentially improve diagnostic processes in the future.
3.3. Telemedicine improves the accessibility of healthcare
Due to social distancing measures, many individuals are unable or unwilling to visit hospitals and receive the care that they need. To prevent the spread of illnesses, telemedicine is becoming more popular than ever, enabling the remote delivery of health care services.
In India, an AI-Powered online doctor consultation app, has seen a 25% increase in the number of online users every week. Through various partnerships with hospitals and healthcare centers, telemedicine companies aim to make healthcare more accessible to minority populations, while simultaneously minimizing the exposure of healthcare professionals to potential viruses and infections.
3.4. The introduction of smart pills can improve treatment and care
One key advancement in medical treatment is the introduction of “smart pills” that contain microscopic sensors to transmit patient data once swallowed, embedding itself in the stomach lining. In the area of research development, Proteus Discover’s smart pill can measure how effective treatments are in general. They help tell doctors when patients have taken their medicine, because for certain conditions like cancer, depression, and schizophrenia, patients can struggle to stick to a schedule. It also keeps track of their activity levels, so that physicians can make better recommendations for their health.
With the growing number of smartphone users worldwide and the introduction of 5G, the public is catching on to how easy online channels are for medical purposes, as well as retail use. Furthermore, measures to protect healthcare professionals such as remotely operated sanitizing mechanisms are more likely to be deployed in the future. Lastly, with the widespread impact of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, the input of medical trackers and fitness devices are invaluable in providing early detection and treatment.
4. Specific future uses of IoT in Healthcare
4.1. Remote Monitoring
Customized software and devices will read data from medical cards of patients in real time and help doctors in conducting a better analysis of a patient’s health.
These are different gadgets that can continuously monitor daily activities of the patients and store the data available in the market. These devices inform patients about their physical activities. They can also help in preventing emergencies, as patient’s information would be sent to the doctor immediately.
4.3. Asset Monitoring
IoT can help in providing functions and controllers to various essential equipment in the hospital. As the equipments are critical while treatment, any defect in them can be fatal. Connecting these devices will enable the staff to monitor their working easily. Defects in the devices can also be figured out in real time; thus, reducing the chances of improper treatment.
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5. Future Benefits of IoT in Healthcare
5.1. Better Supervision and Reporting
Real-time supervision through IoT devices can save lives in medical emergencies such as asthma attacks, heart failures etc. The connected device can collect essential data on a patient’s health and transfer it to the physician in real time. A study conducted by Centre for Connected Health policy suggests that there was a 50% reduction in readmission rate of patients due to remote supervision.
5.2. End-to-End Connectivity
IoT can automate the workflow of patient care with the help of healthcare mobility solutions. It enables interoperability, machine-to-machine communication, data movement and information exchange while making healthcare delivery more productive. Different connectivity protocols in the devices allow hospital personnel to spot early signs of illness in the patients.
5.3. Data Analysis
IoT devices can collect, report and analyze the extensive data collected in short time, cutting the need of its storage. This will allow healthcare providers in focusing on relevant data required to treat the patient. The data-driven insights will speed up the decision-making process of the doctors.
5.4. Alerts and Tracking
Timely alerts can be crucial in case of life-threatening circumstances. IoT allows medical devices to gather essential data and transfer it to doctors in real time. The reports provide perfect opinion on the patient’s condition, irrespective of location or time.
5.5. Lower Costs
The connected devices and wearables will allow patients to connect with doctors from their homes. The regular visit for different tests and checkups will be minimized. This will save cost and time of patients on a daily basis.
5.6. Medication Management
With the help of smart wireless pill bottles, tracking medication schedule will become easy. This will help people who forget to take their medications on time. The IoT enabled medication management processes will also provide doctors with analytics for offering better care to the patients.
6. Future Challenges of IoT in Healthcare
With the increase in the market for healthcare IoT, the challenges are bound to increase. Storing mountains of data collected by many devices will pose a challenge to the healthcare institutions. As this data will also be exchanged amongst other devices, the security issues will also rise. Unauthorized access to connected devices can cause harm to the patient’s safety. Thus, proper authentication and authorization will be necessary to achieve success with IoT.
Applications that IoT has to offer are not fully developed yet. The widespread use of connected devices in the healthcare structure is also incomplete. IoT and healthcare together will radically change the service offerings in the hospitals. The digitalization in healthcare will be brought by the IoT.
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