Internet of Things (IoT) in Healthcare: The Present & Future

Imagine this: An extremely long line of sick people in a small, drab waiting room standing for hours to see a healthcare professional. The line seems endless, the people impatient, and the medical professionals in short supply. Maybe you don’t have to imagine it, because you remember when it was the norm.

However, have you noticed things seem to be changing just a bit? With the speed of innovation, advancing healthcare facilities, evolving mobile applications and new concepts in the Internet of Things (IoT), the landscape of healthcare is advancing rapidly.

IoT has clearly made its mark in fields such as retail, industrial, automotive and now healthcare. Although it’s vital for all of these sectors to integrate these technologies in order to find solutions, no sector benefits quite like healthcare.

Whether it’s for doctors, nurses, patients, researchers, or even insurers, IoT has created avenues for opportunity. With the use of IoT, doctors can now monitor patients’ health from virtually anywhere and patients can connect with their doctors from the tips of their fingers. Researchers can collaborate with each other from across the globe without actually meeting, and experts can find necessary help for even the most difficult diagnosis dilemma.

How IoT is Essential for Healthcare

IoT is increasingly becoming a necessity in the realm of healthcare. With rapid advancements and an industry struggling to manage demand, there are a few key ways healthcare has made an impact:

  • reduced emergency room waiting time
  • enabled raw patient data to be converted to useful insights
  • been central in being able to track patients, staff, and inventory
  • ensured availability of necessary tools and equipment
  • improved patient and healthcare worker safety

The Extent of Capabilities for IoT in Healthcare:

There are ways in which healthcare has been improved using the Internet of Things (IoT), however as the implementation of IoT grows, so do its capabilities. Here are a few of IoT’s expanding capabilities that are making their way into everyday hospital life.

Better Supervision and Reporting

Real-time supervision through IoT devices can save lives in medical crises. Doctors are able to receive important patient data in real-time and respond accordingly. Devices like these are extremely important for treating chronic illnesses, such as moderate to severe asthma. According to a study conducted by the Center for Connected Health Policy, there was a 50% reduction in the readmission rate of patients due to the implementation of remote supervision.

End-to-End Connectivity

IoT can automate the workflow of patient care with the help of healthcare mobility solutions. It empowers interoperability, machine-to-machine communication, data movement, and info exchange while making healthcare delivery more productive. Different connectivity protocols in the devices let hospital personnel spot primary signs of illness in the patients.

Data Analysis

IoT devices can collect, report and evaluate the extensive data collected in a short time, cutting the need for its storage. This will allow healthcare workers in focusing on relevant data needed to treat the patient. The data-driven insights will speed up the decision-making procedure of the doctors.

Alerts and Tracking

Timely alerts can be critical in case of life-threatening conditions. IoT allows medical devices to collect essential data and transfer it to doctors in real-time. The reports provide an accurate description of the patient’s condition, irrespective of location or time.

Lower Costs

Connected devices and wearable technology will let patients connect with doctors from their homes. Annual and semi-annual tests and check-ups will be minimized from long exhaustive processes to brief appointments. This will save the cost and time of patients on a daily basis.

Medication Management

With the help of smart wireless pill bottles, tracking prescription schedules 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 in order to offer better care to the patients.

Challenges Faced by IoT in the Healthcare Sector:

As you’ve probably inferred at this point, IoT is constantly evolving. With this consistent improvement, come both expected and unexpected roadblocks. In order to navigate these potential hiccups and then find discover if the pros outweigh the cons, you have to first be able to identify what these barriers may be. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Cost

Cost is one of the key challenges faced with IoT applications. This technology-driven solutions not yet affordable to the general public. IoT in healthcare is a promising innovation but still relatively expensive to implement. As IoT becomes more mainstream and early adopters make way for the majority, the process will become affordable.

Privacy and Data Security

As IoT is a system of interrelated computing devices, it means there is always some risk of a cyber-attack. Security measures have improved drastically in the past few years, however cyber criminals also evolve. With health and patient data, as well as private healthcare information, IoT devices need comprehensive security protocols in order to protect vulnerable data.

Data Accuracy and Overload

Large data sets are recorded by IoT devices, and in a perfect world, they help to give doctors valuable insights into patient treatment. The problem with a vast data collection is that determining what data is important and navigating that data is easier said than done. As a majority of IoT devices will collect data in order to provide insights, data overload will become a legitimate problem.

Integration with Different Protocols and Devices

The issue we see with IoT execution is due to the lack of consensus between different device manufacturers regarding setting standard and communication protocols. When different devices are connected under a single IoT ecosystem with no agreed upon protocol, there will be issues in the transference of the data aggregated.

The Future Scope of IoT in Healthcare:

Healing at Home

With the passage of time and the introduction of IoT health monitoring tools, the choice of healing at home will become a viable option. With the integration of real-time monitoring and other modules, patients essentially will not need to be in a hospital bed to be treated.

Peace of Mind

The addition of wearable technology helps to make healing at home not only a possibility but a probability. Wearable devices can track a patient’s condition while alerting their physician in the case of any abnormalities.

Independent Health Monitoring

Independent health monitoring is something you’ve probably already heard about or experienced. It could have been if you measured your heart rate with a smartwatch or saw how you slept using an app on your mobile device, however with IoT advancing so rapidly, these amazing innovations are going to seem archaic after a while.

IoT is expected to advance independent health monitoring in order to be able to help people from anywhere in the world. If you have a health issue or get injured and are unable to call for help, the capability of health monitoring will be able to respond accordingly and automatically update your physicians or caretakers. The potential for IoT in helping retirees or disabled individuals could be tremendous.

Medicine at the Right Time

How many times have you forgotten to take your medicine on time? Most of us have. As humans, it seems to be in our very nature to forget. With the implementation of IoT monitoring devices for patients, people can rest assured they’ll be taking the right medicine at the right time. For patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s, devices like these could help people stay on track and help to alleviate confusion for not only patients but caretakers.

IoT is changing the very face of the healthcare industry. There may be some kinks to work out in due time, but the possibilities of IoT in healthcare are innumerable. Not only will IoT help to make the administrative aspect of healthcare easier, it will also lead to better patient care and save lives.

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