Internet of Things (IoT) in Healthcare – An Introduction

This article is a result of my initial days of research late last year into applications of IoT in Healthcare and BioPharma. These are some of the basic applications and will provide you a good introduction. In my opinion, there are some advanced applications that can really be game changers, specifically for BioPharma sector.

Globally, health and medical care services are facing tremendous challenges owing to, for example, soaring costs, an ageing population, an increase in the prevalence of chronic and/or multiple conditions, and a shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. In addition, traditional care services relying on average and/or qualitative data and a one-size-fits-all prescribing approach do not work well. In this context, the use of IoT in healthcare services addresses many of these challenges by offering the following features:

  • Seamless integration with various existing technologies
  • Support of big data processing and analysis
  • Personalized services
  • Remote and real-time monitoring-based connected healthcare services
  • Quantitative data, which offer more effective services than qualitative data
  • Interactive and real-time interaction between healthcare professionals and patients
  • Ubiquitous access to services
  • Efficient management of healthcare resources

All these features of the IoT-based solutions will disrupt the healthcare industry by offering various services. These services can be viewed and served in two different environments:

  • Hospital and clinics
  • Non-clinical patient environments

The following diagram highlights a few main applications of these two environments and presents a list of potential services in each of the environments:

Capture

The following are the key subdomains of IoT in healthcare:

  • Smart hospitals: Globally, in both developed and developing countries, hospitals are overcrowded with patients. Also, they have a shortage of resources—including skilled professionals—and equipment. The situation is really bad in rural areas of most countries, where people have limited or no access to healthcare facilities. In this context, IoT-based remote services, such as remote monitoring and telemedicine, can offer access to many basic healthcare services.                                                                                                                                                                                       Also, remote monitoring of elderly patients and those with chronic diseases can greatly reduce healthcare-related costs, and improve quality of life for both patients and healthcare professionals. Smart and connected ambulances can offer on-fleet prompt and emergency services, and reduce emergency services-related incidents. In an operating room, connected doctors (locally and externally), staff, and medical devices can offer a better and smoother operating environment. Also, inventory management in hospitals can be greatly improved through IoT applications.

 

  • Clinics: Many people go to a general practitioner (GP) practice or clinic for primary care services. These service providers can also benefit from using IoT applications. For example, a GP can view and analyze virtually the patient’s pathology report, which saves time for both parties. Importantly, patients will get more time for care-related discussions than information gathering. Clinics can verify insurance coverage for patients in real time.                                                                                                                                                                                                Appointment management in clinics and GP practices is a global challenge. In England, approximately 15 million appointments per year are missed, which costs the National Health Service (NHS) millions of pounds. This situation can be improved by IoT-based applications.

 

  • Non-clinical patient environments: Two potential application areas of IoT could be connected—the patient and the smart home. Here, the smart home would offer healthcare services to patients anytime and anywhere. Remote monitoring of a prescribed intervention, such as physiotherapy, can be done through a connected patient application. Also, patients can get personalized services, such as reminders to take medication.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Offering monitoring and healthcare services to elderly people is a great challenge worldwide. Smart home solutions can improve existing services and offer new services for these highly vulnerable people through fall detection, medication reminders, telemedicine, and general assisted living.

 

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