One of the most exciting things about today’s society is seeing advancements in research and technology being applied in so many areas of life, particularly in healthcare.
One converging technology that is gaining significant momentum in healthcare is the internet of things (IoT), which has wide-ranging benefits for patients, care providers, and facilities. Many companies, including the consulting and professional services firm PwC, are now rolling out offerings in the IoT space. For example, PwC’s Connected Solutions allow organizations to harness the power of connectivity and data to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and create better experiences for customers and employees.
IoT Can “Cure” Healthcare Challenges
The IoT encompasses the networking of objects and machines, which can include vehicles and home appliances, as well as a variety of work and personal devices. By connecting these objects, organizations can send and receive data throughout the network, providing insights that help businesses make intelligent decisions.
In healthcare, a market in which IoT is gaining traction, the three most common purposes are in monitoring and maintenance; remote control and operation; and location-based services. It can help streamline care for patients, facilitate more effective monitoring and procedures, and maximize access to location-based care services for rural patients.
Applications in Healthcare
The best way to understand the benefits of the IoT in healthcare is to examine the use cases. The following examples illustrate how the IoT is improving care globally.
- Emergency Room Wait Times: People have to wait to be seen in emergency rooms, especially if they come in with minor health issues. The IoT is helping to reduce those times in some places. For example, Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York partnered with GE Healthcare to effectively track bed occupancy using 15 different metrics that assess patients’ needs and quickly direct them to the proper department, keeping things moving smoothly and efficiently. Using biometric technology, PwC’s IoT solution can identify the location of medical equipment and determine how long patients have been waiting, which can help mitigate crowded ER situations. It can monitor foot traffic and manage lines of people, while complying with data privacy regulations.
- Telehealth: One of the challenges faced by healthcare professionals is ensuring that patients have access to the care services they need, especially in rural areas and among patients with limited mobility. Telehealth, which uses IoT to monitor patients remotely, reduces the need for in-person consultations and gives providers access to data to ensure patients are doing well. This can improve access to care in remote locations, while also saving money and time.
- Proactive Technology Monitoring: Like any organization that uses hardware and software to function, hospitals and other care facilities are at risk for problems with their technology. It can be the result of outdated software, inadequate security protections, and other causes. Fortunately, the IoT is helping to solve this issue with predictive maintenance: monitoring hardware and software and alerting hospital staff if technology needs attention — before there’s a breakdown.
- Track assets and locate people: In order to keep care facilities running smoothly, it is crucial to track assets like medical equipment. However, it can be difficult to track these assets when they’re needed. It’s also important to be able to locate staff and patients when they require assistance. IoT is addressing this problem with real-time location systems that manage asset tracking and keep the facility operating smoothly.
- Drug Management: Adherence to medication protocols can mean the difference between getting better or getting worse. Unfortunately, many patients are at risk of forgetting to take their medications or taking improper dosages. IoT applications can help track prescriptions, ensuring that patients receive the proper dosages at the appropriate times.
- Chronic Illness Management: Patients with chronic illnesses often feel overwhelmed with the need to manage their diseases, symptoms, and treatments. This can keep patients from taking the necessary steps to improve their health. The application of IoT that uses wearable technology, analytics, and mobile connectivity can help patients more effectively manage chronic illnesses by enabling providers to instantly access their data.
Today, the use of IoT technologies in healthcare is improving not only the care provided to patients, but also the management of the business side. As this technology expands and advances, it’s expected that the IoT will develop more healthcare applications. These will help increase work productivity, save money, facilitate new business models, and maximize collaboration between care providers and patients.
This piece was written by David Chou, a digital transformation consultant and longtime advocate for leveraging technology as a competitive advantage. He has held leadership roles with several organizations, including University of Mississippi Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic, and most recently, Children’s Mercy Hospital. To follow him on Twitter, click here.