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Impact of IoT on Infectious Diseases Control

The Internet of Things has a substantial positive impact on humanity, primarily if we focus it on controlling and monitoring the spread of impending infectious diseases like coronavirus, measles, etc. Read on and have a glimpse of how IoT is assisting the Healthcare sector.

Who can benefit

Detection is the first and most critical step in infectious disease control. IoT can help by providing an early warning system to curb the spread of infectious diseases. However, to achieve this, it’s necessary to have interconnected IoT systems and advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and ubiquitous connectivity on a global scale. 

This will have massive benefits to many aspects of humankind, especially in terms of infectious disease control. A global network of IoT sensors presents both short and long term benefits in healthcare. In the short run, healthcare organizations and governments will be able to monitor every ‘compromised’ individual as they go through customs at airports or border crossings. This will enable targetted quarantine and thus allow quick treatment, thus mitigating the spread of the coronavirus or any other infectious diseases

In the long run, large international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations can start negotiating buy-in from governments across the world to develop an early detection global system. Such a system will uncover these infectious diseases before they become a world crisis. World emergencies such as coronavirus result in the loss of many precious lives, economic uncertainty, and increase the volatility in stock markets. A global detection system could reduce this uncertainty and allow governments the financial incentive to act fast in tackling the issue of universal health emergencies and pandemics.

IoT Breakthrough in infectious disease management

1. Predict flu seasons

A few weeks prior to the winter season, every healthcare professional around the world gears up for the flu season. Despite all their efforts, it’s usually never enough. Fortunately, today, several IoT devices can provide accurate insights about the flu, which could not be obtained otherwise.

One typical example is the increasingly prevalent smart thermometers that link to symptom tracking apps. The collaboration between the two can help share relevant data to the user’s doctor. Using this information, usually a person’s daily temperature or symptoms suggestive of flu, the doctor will be able to use this data to gauge the likelihood that the patient has caught the flu and whether or not a medication will be helpful.

On a large scale, this type of data can be anonymized and aggregated, allowing public health professionals to make forecasts and insightful decisions about the flu in various regions of the country or even other nations. Several studies have proven that this type of data provides a better and advanced warning of outbreaks than traditional methods. In a recent survey, smart thermometers showed forecasts three weeks earlier than past methods.

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2. Facilitate quick diagnosis

The major challenge with most infectious diseases, especially coronavirus, is that most people do not know that they are infected. Since they do not have any symptoms or didn’t recognize them, they will assume they are healthy. As a result, they will go about their daily business, infecting others.

To help minimize this unintentional spread of infectious disease, healthcare professionals can leverage IoT to facilitate early diagnosis. In Uganda, for instance, it took around two months before someone could get test results for TB. However, when several providers started using an over-the-air system that works with an IoT SIM card and global IoT communications platform, tuberculosis diagnosis took only three days.

While IoT could not help prevent the disease in the infected and diagnosed individuals, it certainly can help enlighten the infected individuals. So that they quarantine or take effective measures to stop it from spreading to other individuals.

3. Protect caregivers without compromising in the healthcare quality

The fatal virus originating from Africa once made the headlines. In Guinea, one outbreak had a case-fatality ratio of about 68.5 percent. The virus is transmitted when humans come in direct contact with infected animals, and it’s also transmitted through direct contact.

Ensuring one does not have direct contact with the patients can be a challenge for healthcare givers. For instance, the first U.S-based case was due to a nurse who had been treating an Ebola patient in a hospital but, at one point, removed her gloves, got bodily fluid on her hands then touched her face. With Ebola patients, doctors cannot use traditional diagnostic tools, such as thermometers and stethoscopes.

This is where IoT devices come into the picture. Smart wearables can help keep personnel safer, without compromising on the quality of care. One good example is a “smart Band-Aid,” which sticks onto a patient’s sternum to take baseline readings of heart rate, temperature, and oxygen saturation. Afterward, the device will measures deviations from these initial statistics and keep an up to date record.

The data-sharing ability of these IoT devices allows doctors and other caregivers to monitor patients from anywhere, sometimes without the need to put their lives at risk by going to the “hot zone” associated with an outbreak. Physicians and analysts can also see the conditions of all patients wearing the patches on a large scale and make insightful decisions.

4. Bust water contamination quickly ( Bust Legionnaires’ disease)

We all drink water, and you probably don’t want to imagine how massive water contamination would impact your life. This is why efforts in smart solutions for water quality monitoring are gaining importance. These leaps include an IoT based real-time river water quality monitoring system and a power-efficient, simpler solution for in-pipe water quality monitoring based on the Internet of Things. The developed model tests water samples and uploads the data on the Internet, where industry experts can access it and make insightful decisions. These IoT systems also alert the remote users, in case there is a deviation of water quality parameters from the pre-defined set of standard values.

One notorious water-borne disease to watch out for is Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia associated with the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria are water-loving and thrive in hot tubs, cooling towers, and other similar environments. 

With the advent of IoT, the intervention involves using electric current coupled with IoT measurement systems to kill the bacteria. IoT allows tracking of the overall efficiency of the cooling towers and verifying if the bacteria-zapping technology is properly working and warn tower operators of any unusual conditions.

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5. Get the help of disease experts remotely

As soon an outbreak is established, the situation becomes a rat race to try and control the spread of the disease. To achieve this, it’s necessary to understand the nature and scope of the disease, what’s the cause, how does it spread, and how it can be prevented, managed, or treated. 

In the case that the outbreak occurs in a very remote area, it’s highly unlikely that you will find expert epidemiologists and pathologists on the ground, not even to mention the necessary resources they need. This is where IoT-enabled digital pathology microscopes come into the picture. These IoT devices bridge the gap between pathologists and physicians. They allow the transmission of data to pathologists who may be hundreds to thousands of miles away from the outbreak site where the sample was collected.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Internet of Things is making great leaps in the healthcare industry. According to Grand View Research, the world’s largest and most trusted BI enabled market research database, the IoT market for healthcare will reach USD 534.3 billion by 2025.

Meanwhile, Skelia wishes you to be healthy, stay home, and take care of yourself!

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