Healthcare and the Internet of Things

The healthcare industry is known for being slow to adopt new technologies and innovations.  A healthy judiciousness is to be expected in the industry (though there remains no excuse for fax machines)! In recent times, however, technologies have become more thoroughly researched in a data-driven capacity, safer, and overall more stable; this has driven the healthcare industry to incorporate new technologies into medical care at an unprecedented rate.  The Internet of Things (IoT) is one such technology that’s become widely accepted in healthcare.

But what actually is IoT, and how is it harnessed to provide healthcare services? This article will review these questions while shedding light on the benefits of IoT in the healthcare industry.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

You’re most likely familiar with IoT, even though you might not recognize the name.  IoT describes connected physical objects (or collections of such objects) with processing ability, sensors, and software technologies that allow them to communicate.

A everyday example of an IoT ecosystem is a smart home, with interconnected devices like lighting fixtures, cameras, smart speakers, smart TVs, and other home appliances.  The ecosystem can be controlled by other devices connected to the ecosystem, such as a smartphone.

How the IoT is used in Healthcare

IoT has a four-stage process in which data is gathered and used for medical purposes.  The stages are outlined as follows:

Step 1: Data Collection

This stage involves the distribution of interconnected devices with IoT tags.  These devices collect data using monitors, sensors, detectors, and other means of gathering medical data.

Step 2: Data Conversion

The data from the interconnected IoT devices are usually recorded in analog form.  The analog data has to be compiled and converted to digital form to facilitate further processing.

Step 3: Data Sorting

After compilation and digitization, the data is sifted, standardized, and pre-processed.  After the sorting process, the data is moved to data centers or cloud platforms, making the data available for a variety of end-use cases.

Step 4: Data Usage

The data from the devices are analyzed and harnessed as needed.  IoT can aid in the provision of better care, improved diagnosis, superior healthcare performance, reduced patient costs, and decreased healthcare provider expenses.

Benefits of IoT in Healthcare

IoT is making quite an impact on medical care.  It’s use in healthcare has become prevalent enough to earn its own designation:  IoMT (Internet of Medical Things).  It enables the creation of ever-improving medical equipment and treatment techniques; some example areas are highlighted below:

Improved Connectivity and Communication

IoMT devices can automate healthcare workflow with various technologies and facilities. Incorporating IoMT devices in healthcare allows for the use of artificial intelligence, information exchange, and device interoperability.  The technologies employed in IoMT change the way healthcare providers make diagnoses and treat diseases.

Research

IoMT devices collect massive amounts of data within a relatively short time.  The data collected this way can then be used for research and statistical studies.  So, while saving time, IoT devices also cut research costs.

Remote Medical Care

IoMT has also improved medical response time and effort by allowing healthcare providers to assess patients’ vitals without the need for travel by both parties.  For example, patients can video conference a doctor from home with smart mobile apps, while medical professionals can check the patient’s data and diagnose the patient’s ailment remotely.

Vitals Tracking

IoMT devices can gather signs of disease and share them with healthcare providers in real-time.  This allows patients and doctors to monitor vitals, predict disease, or administer preventive medication.  Tracking also allows doctors to follow a patient’s condition over the course of time, rather than just getting a cross-sectional glimpse of time during a visit.  This leads to increased accuracy, improved treatment plans, and higher quality patient care delivery.

Simultaneous Monitoring and Reporting

Interconnected devices facilitate remote health monitoring by alerting patients and doctors to warning signs that might go unnoticed.  In an emergency, IoMT devices alert the proper authorities. In addition to monitoring a patient’s vitals in real-time, IoMT devices use a mobile device’s data connectivity to send a patient’s medical data to a physician or a cloud platform.

Conclusion

IoT, and especially IoMT, faces some significant challenges, among the most prominent being privacy and data security.  Also, while IoMT significantly reduces the cost of research, it is still rather expense for the average person to afford such IoMT devices.  However, as technology improves and policies around these new frontiers concretize, these issues will presumably win some sort of resolution, thereby making medical IoMT technology more accessible to the general public.  As IoMT becomes more accepted and commonplace, adapting to the utilization of IoMT will be an important next step for healthcare facilities and private practice owners.  

So why is a marketing firm like Acquire Patients discussing IoMT? Because aligning technologically-driven care to the technologically-informed patient (who is becoming the ever-growing norm), is one critical dimension of the “product-market fit” healthcare organizations must be vigilant of in their targeted messaging and brand positioning strategies.  Those organizations who keep-up with the latest IoMT technologies, successfully market their utilization of said innovations, and gainfully capture the reimbursement and/or cash-pay potentiality therein, will prosper as patients increasingly demand the precision and accuracy of such technologically-driven care.