By Pat McNamara
Want to live a longer, healthier life? Fortunately for you, the healthcare industry is making huge advances that may make that possible. As technology develops, the healthcare industry is increasingly making use of and adapting to the Internet of Things – which means better care, more accurate and immediate information for doctors, and ultimately, a healthier you!
The Internet of Things refers to machine-to-machine communication which is becoming commonplace in many businesses, and often in our everyday lives. Think of activity tracking wrist bands such as Fitbit, or the Apple Watch; these are stationary objects with sensors that collect data from you throughout the day, and can transmit that data to other machines via the internet. Many industries are making use of “smart” objects and new technologies to advance their products, save money and time, and provide better services to consumers. For the healthcare industry, the Internet of Things offers some of the greatest potential for advancement, and frontrunners in the field are already making use of available devices. In fact, Verizon reports that healthcare and pharmaceuticals are well on their way to becoming some of the top industries making use of the Internet of Things, with a 40% growth in connections of machine-to-machine technology in the past year.
That percentage should continue to grow exponentially in the years to come, as new and better technologies become readily available. It’s an exciting time for the healthcare industry, and possibly even more exciting for the future patients who will be benefiting from these advances!
What’s happening in Healthcare right now?
The healthcare industry is increasingly welcoming the Internet of Things with open arms. Forbes reports that the Internet of Things market segment for healthcare is poised to hit $117 billion by 2020. And those wristbands we mentioned earlier? It has been projected that within the next two years over 80 million people will be wearing them!
Why is this happening? The Internet of Things offers healthcare organizations the possibility of providing better care to patients, more options for preventative care, real-time visibility and intelligence into critical data such as patient records and specimens, and the ability to save substantially in regards to cost and time. Take for example the cost of doctors managing administrative duties that could be reduced by improved technology. Currently, doctors are spending only 30% of their time with patients, while dedicating the rest of their time to administrative duties. In effect, approximately $750 billion is wasted annually in healthcare costs. The Internet of Things makes it possible for doctors to store and transmit patient records electronically, send and receive patient information in real time, and even remotely monitor patient activity. Not only does this save the organization time and money, it also allows that organization to offer better care to patients, and reduce the risk of errors.
The Internet of Things offers far more potential to the healthcare industry than merely simplifying and reducing administrative needs. Some hospitals have actually begun to use so-called “smart beds” for patients, that monitor and detect when a patient is trying to get up, and can even adjust pressure to provide adequate support for the patient without requiring physical assistance from a nurse. Other developments include the use of electronic health records and radio frequency identification tags, which allow healthcare professionals to monitor patient activity and needs with ease and efficiency. When these devices are connected to cloud technology or used with mobile scanners they enable healthcare professionals to access critical information in real time, prepare for patients ahead of time (perhaps even while a patient is headed to the ER in an ambulance), and reduce needless testing and wasted time asking repetitive questions. Remote monitoring will also improve efficiency for healthcare organizations. One study on heart failure patients estimates that those patients using sensors to monitor their blood pressure and heart rhythm remotely will cause a drop in hospital readmission by 64%.
What will the future bring?
Adding sensors to existing medical devices will make a world of difference to patients and doctors alike. By enabling certain devices with sensors and adding them to the Internet of Things, manufacturers will be opening up countless possibilities for the healthcare industry. Potential advances could include insulin pumps or other medication dispensers that are able to sense medication levels in the body and regulate necessary doses. Likewise, implanted medical devices such as pacemakers with sensors could transmit critical, real time data to doctors, and even alert them in the event of an emergency.
This could result in something called “ambient assisted living,” meaning individuals with serious healthcare needs would be provided with an environment supported by information and communication technologies (i.e. video cameras, and wearable or imbedded monitors). These technologies would detect if the patient is experiencing uncharacteristic symptoms or undergoing any kind of emergency. Doctors, family members, or emergency personal could then be alerted immediately. This would make caring for elderly or disabled family members far less burdensome for caregivers and loved ones, and offer those patients peace of mind knowing they are being looked after, with their medical status under observation at all times.
What do you think?
As experts in providing strategic IT workforce solutions, Atlantic Associates, Inc. thrives on staying up to date with the latest technologies. We would love to know what you think about these exciting advances in healthcare, or if you have experienced use of the Internet of Things in a healthcare setting yourself! Leave a comment below or tweet at us on Twitter to share your thoughts!