IoT in Healthcare

IoT in Healthcare – what you need to know

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly transforming the healthcare industry, bringing about innovative solutions that enhance patient care, improve operational efficiency, and reduce costs.

The healthcare industries are possibly the industries where progress impacts people’s lives most deeply. Think only that thanks to advancements in technology (including drugs and vaccines), we can now easily treat diseases that no further than in the 20th century were a death sentence.

Medical devices have benefited the most from technological progress. Healthcare technology like CT or MRI scans, which once seemed something from a sci-fi movie set, have now become regular investigative procedures.

With the invention of the Internet, which made it possible to connect and share data almost instantly, medicine underwent a new era. Now, amongst other progress, we are talking about IoT in healthcare.

1. The Evolution of Healthcare Technology

When we say technology, we currently think of “digital,” “electronic,” or “smart device.” Surprisingly, the now common paper was a new technology thousands of years ago, when writing was only on clay tablets or animal skins. So looking back at healthcare technology, it isn’t easy to name a starting point.

For instance, electronic biomedical equipment is not an invention of the 21st century; it’s been around for decades. The digitization of medical devices is oftentimes just an incremental enhancement of an existing „old” electronic apparatus, like monitoring devices. Such an example is the heart arrhythmia measurement tool which is miniaturized in various forms.

Another technological advancement under the healthcare system’s focus, especially in the U.S., is the health management information system – particularly the management of the patient’s health record. Electronic Medical Records are a challenge for the IoT in healthcare and a gate to Paradise for patients and medical institutions once the protocols and security dilemmas are sorted out.

In the U.S., for instance, the first attempts to organize an information management system for the healthcare sector date back to the 1920s. In 1928 the Association of Record Librarians of North America was designated by the American College of Surgeons to standardize medical records. Paper records were in use until the 1970s. Slowly, the invention and deployment of computers made it possible for Electronic Health Records to be implemented. In 1965 73 hospitals in America used EHRs. But at that time, computers were large and very expensive, and few health facilities could afford them.

Despite the fast evolution of computer technology and the Internet, not even in 2014, there wasn’t a widely spread share of healthcare data between organizations, mainly because of data security concerns.

However, though moving slower than other industries, we can presently see how much IoT is transforming the healthcare industry. In 2020, over 60% of organizations in the healthcare industry worldwide were researching and implementing IoT healthcare solutions.

According to Statista, healthcare-related IoT revenues worldwide have evolved from $24 billion in 2016 to a forecasted amount of more than $135 billion by 2025. That is no surprise, considering that in 2021, more than half of the hospitals had a remote patient monitoring system in the U.S. alone.

2. What are the advantages of IoT in healthcare?

For many, it may be hard to imagine healthcare processes or activities performed by web apps, for example. However, the benefits of IoT in healthcare compensate for any downfalls, especially in terms of patient health and well-being.

Better monitor patients

IoT solutions allow remote monitoring of patients with the help of connected devices. Such IoT medical devices can send the necessary information to healthcare providers, so the patient doesn’t need to go in person for a check-up. Not to mention when these connected medical devices save lives, sending automatic alarm messages to healthcare facilities, so medical professionals can intervene right away, even when the patient is unable to call anyone. In 2020, 29% of healthcare organizations in the United States planned to implement patient monitoring medical equipment in the following 2 years.

Prevent health problems

„Prevention is better than cure” is believed to have been said by the Dutch philosopher Erasmus some 500 years ago. We still believe it, though the medical systems worldwide don’t seem to function that way. With IoT transforming how we relate to our health, prevention has become the natural approach. Health conditions can be monitored with the help of wearable devices (already much in use). At the same time, IoT applications can recommend preventive measures and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of diseases.

Reduced costs for healthcare

Hospital admission and procedures are the greatest cost in the healthcare sector. In the U.S., hospital care represents 33% of total healthcare costs, around the huge sum of $1.2 trillion. Moreover, each year, emergency department (ED) visits that were first treatable in other facilities (or at home), cost more than $8 billion. Goldman Sachs estimates that healthcare IoT will save $300 billion for the industry in the following years.

Better patient experience

From non-invasive investigations, thanks to IoT medical devices like an ingestible sensor, to accurate diagnosis and customized treatment plans, combined with the reduction of unnecessary visits to the hospital – IoT for healthcare makes fighting health problems less painful and much more full of hope.

Less human error

We don’t like to discuss human error in medicine and healthcare because it costs lives. The reality is that it happens. “To err is human,” says an aphorism by Alexander Pope. While the human touch is highly valuable and, in many situations, irreplaceable, there are instances when the precision of IoT technology can eliminate preventable errors, increasing the chances of healing and survival.

Better healthcare management

Not only patients and medical staff can benefit from using IoT in healthcare. The systems that monitor and manage healthcare resources and institutions can become more efficient with the help of healthcare solutions. An IoT-enabled management and monitoring system and machine learning. Collecting data from subordinate institutions allows a close view of resource use. Machine learning can indicate more efficient processes and flows, while cloud platforms allow faster communication and data access.

3. Applications of IoT in healthcare

We are only at the beginning of what IoT can achieve in healthcare.

Healthcare applications for patients – With the help of mobile devices and various wearable devices (that we already use, like fitness wristbands), as well as with an IoT sensor, both the patient and the healthcare professional can keep track of health parameters: glucose monitoring, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. Machine learning and screening of the environment can also help prevent asthma attacks (indicating the existence of trigger factors) or predict heart failure in due time. Such IoT devices can send patients and caregivers alarms, notifications, or reminders.

Healthcare solutions for physicians – The medical IoT devices collect and send important data about the patient’s condition. Such health data help physicians remotely monitor patients, track treatment progress and response, and adjust accordingly. Customized treatments become possible, along with non-invasive and precise investigations. Remote patient monitoring also saves precious time for doctors, who can concentrate more on treatment.

Smart hospitals – There are few organizations where the time of reaction is so sensitive, like in a hospital. Moving fast, finding the right equipment or medicine, and knowing which doctor is available and where to find him are often life-and-death situations. With the application of IoT in hospitals, personnel can track in real time where medical equipment is located, the level of stocks, and the location of their colleagues. It can also help maintain a constant high level of hygiene and prevent intra-hospital infections.

4. Four examples of IoT in healthcare

So let’s take a closer look at some examples of IoT applications in healthcare.

Vheda Health’s digital chronic management platform monitors and manages patients with chronic diseases whose conditions are at high risk and whose treatment is very costly.

Cancer treatment applications: these apps track symptoms and send updates to the physician on response to the treatment, so the patient doesn’t need to go to the hospital.
Current Health remote monitoring for home health patients: Doctors can monitor patients in rural areas or where the Internet is unavailable using IoT sensors connected to cellular platforms. It is a great system for people discharged from hospitals who still need monitoring but live far from healthcare units.

Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM): these are some of the most popular examples, along with the smart insulin pen that can recommend the right moment and insulin dose for the injection.

5. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) Use cases

You’ve probably heard of the Internet of medical things IOMT and wondered what this is all about. It is similar to IoT for healthcare, but not exactly the same. The difference is between the two terms or areas of application: healthcare and medical. Healthcare is a wider concept and industry that also comprises the medical industry.
Thus, IoMT or IoT medical refers to the medical devices and digital solutions that use IoT technology to support medical activities and outcomes. The devices communicate with each other via Wi-Fi, delivering valuable data, improving the patient experience, and, sometimes, triggering life-saving actions (automated dosage in perfusion, for instance).

Let’s see some use cases for medical purposes.

Ingestible sensors that are no larger than a pill and smart video pills. When ingested, they give accurate signals about the body functions, level of medication in the blood, and state of the digestive system – easy, painless, and precise.

Hearables and vision technology that use smart devices connected to various IoT applications in healthcare. Such devices (even smart implants) are real support for patients who suffer hearing or sight loss. Smart hearing devices and connected contact lenses improve their interaction with the world.

Moodables are specific IoT medical devices focused on mental health patients. The devices „read” the patient’s mood and, when needed, send to the brain a low-intensity current to elevate the patient’s mood. Companies like Halo Neurosciences and Thync are currently working on such IoT devices.

Smart patient charting is another use case for the Internet of medical things. By using a voice-commanded mobile app, the doctor can have the basic patient data ready to analyze without spending a large amount of time it took if it had been done “classically.” Digital health charting saves up to 15 h/week of a doctor’s time.

6. How to Best use IoT in Healthcare

There is no doubt about the digital transformation that the Internet of things, IoT, brings to healthcare. After the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual care will continue to be a major part of our lives. So healthcare IoT will continue to collect patient data, monitor, analyze, and treat.

What is the best use for IoT in healthcare? There is no one good answer. But we can say that the best use is the one that answers the major needs of the moment and can foresee what will be needed in the long term.

Prevention gains much space in the mindsets and behaviors of modern people. Maybe custom software development for healthcare needs to consider the best ways to prevent various affections. It is of interest to people who don’t want to get sick, and governments and medical systems seek to reduce healthcare costs and overwork.

Also, many conditions could be treated if patients checked in with their doctors sooner. Here, it is a matter of budget but also doctor-patient relations. IoT for healthcare can help increase patient engagement by improving the patient experience.

A connected healthcare device can also reduce the response time of medical professionals to their patients. Besides improving patient care, fast responses can often save lives.

So what could be the best uses of medical app development? The ones that focus on the well-being of the patients and make the work of doctors and health carers less frustrating and more rewarding.

7. How can we help you with IoT in healthcare?

A Deloitte report estimated that in 2022 the market value of IoMT would have reached $158.1. That is to say that IoT app development for healthcare is a good line of business.
Whether you need mobile or web app development for your own healthcare organization or are one of the tech companies that build IoT devices and need custom software development, we have the experience and expertise to help you with that.

We’ll determine the exact pain points, the client’s needs, and what the application should be like, to answer the market’s expectations. If you still wonder what kind of app you should have us develop, check some examples of the top healthcare apps we have already selected, and then drop us a line.

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