5 Benefits of Using IoT in Healthcare that Outweigh the Challenges It Presents
For doctors and researchers, patients and insurers, IoT in healthcare is a vibrant force. Its impact can be strong enough to make a healthcare institution smarter and more effective in what they do. For patients, it’s a chance to experience the significant progress the humanity has made in MedTech. Let’s find out how exactly IoT in healthcare will shape the industry’s future and what impact has it already made.
The Current State of IoT in Healthcare
Smart Internet-connected devices find increasingly more applications within the walls of medical institutions. Statista claims that over 100 million healthcare Internet of Things devices are installed worldwide and the figure will grow up to 161 million by 2020.
There is even a separate umbrella term to name the ecosystem of connected healthcare services and the system of manufactured products – Internet of medical things (IoMT). It enables machine-to-machine interaction and real-time data streaming between an almost infinite range of medical devices. When equipped with sensors, IoMT devices can vary from prostheses and implants to medical equipment (e.g., stretchers) and home-use medical devices (e.g., blood pressure cuffs). According to Deloitte, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market will grow up to $158.1 billion in 2022.
The adoption of IoT in healthcare is an excellent opportunity for hospitals to differentiate within the scientific community, render excellent services and optimize administrative costs. Patients benefit from IoT applications in healthcare as well. For instance, various healthcare apps change the way patients interact with doctorsentirely.
5 Opportunities IoT Opens Up in Healthcare
Remote Medical Assistance
One of the most tried out IoT-enabled services is remote medical assistance. Outside of hospitals, intelligent connected devices can monitor a patient’s conditions, control how they take medications or enroll them on a planned check-up. Because IoT devices automatically take readings and observe behavioral patterns, they can alert the responsible medical units and personnel in case of any discrepancy in the patterns.
According to one of the recent M2M/IoT market researches, there will be 50.2 million people remotely monitored using connected healthcare devices. Such IoT application in healthcare can work for various categories of citizens and types of medical institutions. For instance, in remote maternity care, a patient can wear a connected device that allows doctors to monitor vitals or anticipate an impending unfavorable condition. It also helps elderly patients to stay safe in their homes and can be used in nursing homes. On top of that, people living in remote areas with a lack of healthcare facilities can receive adequate medical assistance thanks to IoT devices.
Tracking Staff, Patients and Inventory
Hospitals strive to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. Especially large institutions that consist of multiple structures, subdivisions and campuses, working with thousands of staff members and providing care to numerous patients. The use of IoT devices helps to create order out of chaos, making medical networks smarter. An efficient IoT roadmap means automating managing processes, monitoring day-to-day activities to detect bottlenecks and a well-structured IT infrastructure.
Some hospitals are already using connected video cameras and wireless ID cards or wristbands. This helps them manage admissions, prevent unauthorized access and measure performance of the personnel. Another example of this particular application of IoT techniques in healthcare is the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. Hospitals can use BLE to see if their staff meets specific requirements like the number of times they sanitize hands on special stations. BLE tags can also be used to check the location of the inventory – devices, supplies and even medicines.
IoT in healthcare has even reached operating rooms, the inner sanctum of surgeons. Powered by artificial intelligence, connected robotic devices have already been used for a variety of surgeries. Because a robot-assisted surgeon has an increased vision and precision, such operations push the limits of laparoscopy and minimally invasive surgeries. Going further, the entire OR can be transformed into a place where devices constantly intercommunicate and define each other’s actions.
Сonnected devices and IoT applications streamline activities of the medical staff at the pre-operating and post-operating stages. Before the surgery, the staff can locate patients, associate them with their personal medical info and learn what treatment they have already received or what specialists have already consulted the patient. Following the surgery, numerous IoT sensors can collect, analyze and transmit data to prevent postsurgical complications.
Surgical instruments and devices can also be connected with the video output to provide high-resolution images and record the tiniest details. Once they are automatically saved to a cloud location, other specialists can easily access these records for various purposes including education. The educational value of IoT in healthcare is worth a special mention. All because the educational material based on data collected from IoMT devices stands way above the traditional learning guides.
Now doctors can try on a role of a data scientist. IoT applications in healthcare let various types of data come in showers: behavioral, clinical, environmental, medicational and others. With the data generated and processed by m-health apps, wearables, data-based in-hospital diagnostics and cloud solutions, service providers can revolutionize user experience in medical services.
Stand-alone data isn’t worth much. It’s the data analytics that impacts all the stakeholders in the healthcare system. For example, predictive analytics fueled by big data provides insight into the patterns that determine and reveal genetic, behavioral or clinical factors of patient disease risk. On top of that, an effective data-driven approach to healthcare equals the optimized organizational performance, better customer engagement and enhanced decision making for medical units.
Drugs production and management is a multimillion dollar business and is among the greatest expenditures of healthcare organizations. From the plant floor to the storage facility in a hospital or a drug store, IoT devices can ensure compliance with all the safety standards that exist on the pharmaceutical market.
Hospitals can try out a model which combines the best techniques from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with the IoMT ecosystem. Among others, medical equipment connected to the IIoT platforms will have a positive impact on medications inventory, compliance with the drugs-storage conditions, energy saving and access to storage facilities. A perfect example is a smart vaccine fridge that prevents vaccines from spoiling and damaging the patient’s health.
Obstacles on the Way of IoT in Healthcare
While the benefits of using IoT in healthcare sound promising for the global medical system, the following obstacles cloud hinder wider adoption of IoT applications in healthcare and expose the system’s vulnerabilities.
- Data avalanche. The most significant merit connected devices can bring to healthcare can turn into a mess for the hospitals’ IT infrastructure. Too often the lack of experience and knowledge is holding back the use of connected devices in healthcare organizations, especially in small or middle-sized ones. There are also legacy concerns that produce an adverse effect on interoperability between the devices and the systems. Healthcare providers should find the right way to process large volumes of data from IoMT and store it for further processing and analytics. One of the possible ways out of this situation is to find a trusted tech partner to succeed with the IoT strategy development and implementation.
- Innovation cost. This challenge is connected with the first one, describing a need to handle the IoT-produced data correctly. Effective deployment of IoT-based healthcare saves lives and funds. But before that, its analysis, development and implementation require profound investments and a clear understanding of its purpose on the part of the hospital management.
- Data security and privacy. According to the statistics gathered in Becker’s hospital review, 89% of the medical facilities have suffered from a security breach in their systems. The figure is disappointing. But the situation may be even worse if cyber attacks influence patients’ health directly. All because the majority of connected medical devices don’t comply with data protection standards. On top of that, the personal life and information of patients will be streamed, viewed, stored and analyzed all the time. All that information can be used for the good as well as the bad.
- End users. In the light of data security issues, patients are biased against the use of IoT applications in healthcare. Medical institutions should spread the word about the benefits of using IoT in healthcare, build awareness and conduct showcases to prove that this technological change is for the better. The poor interest shown by certain categories of the population may be another obstacle for the broader adoption of IoT. Especially when these people are the target audience of the IoT service providers.
To address these challenges, healthcare organizations need a cost-effective network infrastructure that meets security and privacy requirements but at the same time is simple enough to be managed and operated by anyone from the medical personnel.
IoT in healthcare solves a myriad of problems by applying new technologies. Doctors and patients, researches and insurance companies benefit from the unlocked capabilities of devices, new treatments and safer medicines. Сare providers adopt IoT technologies more actively to provide remote monitoring, streamline personnel and assets management and create a user experience worth the progress made by the technologies and medicine in the 21st century. Even though it’s too early to witness the truly connected smart hospitals, once fully adopted, IoT will prompt the achievement of shared goals for all the stakeholders in healthcare.