The Internet & Information technology have disrupted all industries. Healthcare is no different. In many ways, the healthcare industry now is at the forefront of technology adoption. Among the technology movements taking this sector by storm is the Internet of Things (IoT). Improving efficiencies, enhancing care quality, improving patient outcomes and satisfaction, and reducing the cost of healthcare are just some of the areas that where IoT is already at work.
Research shows that the global IoT in Healthcare Market is expected to grow at a rate of 19.8% from USD 60.83 Billion in 2019 to USD 260.75 Billion in 2027. Fueling the growth of IoT is the rising focus on patient-centric care delivery and active patient engagement. With IoT applications, doctors can make patient treatment more accurate and proactive. Hospitals can reduce patient readmission rates, improve diagnostics, enable proactive and preventive care, and also improve communication and workflows in the hospital environment.
IoT applications are all set to transform the healthcare industry by creating avenues to seamlessly connect devices and people to streamline the healthcare delivery process. Some of the areas where IoT is at work in the healthcare segment are:
Improving patient care with remote monitoring
IoT-enabled devices can transform patient care with remote monitoring. They gather real-time patient data for constant monitoring, especially for chronic disease management. These devices can be of great use to deliver quality post-surgery care once the patient has been discharged.
Data generated from these devices can be employed to enable proactive patient care and provide timely intervention in case of anomalies. Any anomaly triggers an alarm alerting the doctors or the primary caregivers and provides real-time information regarding the patients’ health.
With this information doctors and caregivers can improve the quality of care by making it more real-time and personalized. The data generated by these devices can be used to design care plans that can immensely improve patient care and outcomes.
Improving administration, operations, and inventory management
The hospital is a complex environment. IoT applications can be of great help in making this space more connected, secure, and efficient to bring in more transparency and better management. RFID tags and barcodes, for example, are now being placed extensively for medical inventory management. These tags are placed on medical equipment and supplies and help hospital staff efficiently and effortlessly track their location, status, and usage.
IoT smart devices are also being used to make the hospital environment more efficient. These sensor devices in refrigerators, freezers, and laboratories ensure that blood samples, vaccines, and important medicines are stored at the right temperature and dispensed correctly to save time and improve patient care. RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) used in conjunction with IoT can mark inventory and manage medical equipment employing location sensors. These systems can send out alerts about incorrect device use, contaminated medicines, or stock expiry dates.
The smart sensor network can also make hospital admissions and operations more efficient and streamlined. IoT applications can be employed for contactless registration of patients, tracking patient information, and guiding patients across the hospital environment.
Enhance safety and security of patients
The healthcare industry is using IoT applications to improve the safety and security of patients as well. IoT applications such as heart and respiratory rate sensors are used on hospital beds to monitor vital signs and send out alerts to the nurses in case of a change or behavioral anomaly.
Smart trackers like wristbands are being used to monitor patient movement and have become especially useful to ensure that patients do not access unauthorized areas or leave the premises unattended. These devices can also be used to track infants and ensure that babies can be tracked and located at any time.
These devices can also send out real-time alerts to nurses about patient conditions to drive proactive patient care. It also improves staff efficiencies as they no longer need to spend time manually collecting and collating data.
Remote assistance and monitoring
IoT applications are unleashing a wave of efficiencies in improving patient care and outcomes by enabling remote assistance and monitoring of patients. An IoT app can connect a patient to a doctor miles away and can provide the patient with vital information on how to manage the health condition until help arrives. IoT enables real-time monitoring that helps medics check-in, identify, and evaluate ailments on the go.
This remote medical assistance can be a great boon to the underserved sections and ensure that quality healthcare access and important healthcare information are delivered to all.
IoT helps in making the entire healthcare ecosystem seamlessly connected. However, an IoT solution is not just about using a device or a sensor. It is about using the right combination of technologies to drive the device network. It also involves developing a robust IoT platform that seamlessly connects the device to the healthcare ecosystem. It demands creating robust processes and workflows to enable data capture and analysis to drive predictive capabilities and improved outcomes. A lot depends on the software components that power the devices, platforms, analytics engines, and reporting tools.
IoT has tremendous potential in the healthcare segment to improve patient journeys amidst tightening budgets. Whether it is improving operational efficiencies through facilities management or predictive maintenance, improving clinical efficiencies by enabling better data-driven decisions, fueling drug discovery, or improving patient experiences with personalized treatment plans and remote monitoring, clearly IoT has cemented itself as a viable and essential technology in the healthcare space.
Mandar Gadre | Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing
Mandar Gadre serves as Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing for GS Lab. Mandar holds B.Tech from IIT Bombay, and a Ph.D. in engineering from Arizona State University, USA. He brings deep expertise and experience in crafting industrial solutions, leading technology teams, while contributing technically to sensor technology, hardware and control solutions, and data analytics. Mandar has helped numerous organizations implement IIoT and delivered results that have shaped new business models for those organizations.