IoT has opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to healthcare. Ordinary medical devices can now collect extremely valuable and additional data, which in turn gives more insight into symptoms and trends and enables remote care. The result is more autonomy for patients and better monitoring of often serious conditions. Here are just a few of the ways IoT is creating smarter healthcare.
Remote Medical Assistance
One of the biggest and fastest growing areas of healthcare and IoT is remote medical assistance, in which connected devices monitor a patient’s conditions at their homes. Smart devices take readings and observe behavioral patterns (often automatically) and can alert medical professionals when there is a discrepancy. This is particularly applicable for elderly patients, as well as vulnerable patients or patients with long term chronic conditions. It reduces in-person visits and lets patients manage their care from home.
Smart Glucose Monitoring
Around one in ten adults are affected by diabetes, requiring continuous monitoring and treatment. A Continuous Glucose Monitor helps diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels by taking readings at regular intervals. The data is then sent to a smart phone app and allow for remote monitoring – perfect for parents of diabetic children or relatives or elderly or vulnerable patients. Smart insulin pens automatically record the time, amount, and type of insulin dosage, and store long-term data on a smartphone app.
Asthma kills around 1000 people each day and affects around 339 million people globally – a number that is rising steadily. Smart inhalers offer increased insight into and control over symptoms and treatment, helping those who suffer understand what might be causing their symptoms, tracking use of medication, and also allergen forecasts. One of the biggest benefits is that people using connected inhalers take their medication more consistently and are more likely to use their medication as prescribed, which leads to improvements in their condition. There is also a wearable asthma monitor that detects symptoms of an asthma attack before its onset.
According to the World Health Organization, around 50% of medicines are not taken as directed, which can lead to serious health consequences. Ingestible sensors are pills containing microscopic sensors – about the size of a grain of rice – that send a signal to an external sensor worn on the body, ensuring both proper dosage and usage. The data
is then relayed to a smartphone app, which helps patients keep on top of their meds. This not only improves adherence to doctor directives, it also allows patients to have a more informed dialogue with their healthcare provider about treatment. Making sure patients take their medication at the right time is also an issue, particularly among elderly patients, who tend to be prescribed a cocktail of medications that are to be taken at certain times of the day. Connected pill dispensing machines ensure that not only does the patient take the pill at the right time in the right dosage through the use of prompts, it also alerts healthcare providers if something is wrong.
Hand Hygiene Compliance
Proper hand hygiene is the single biggest defense against spreading disease, yet research shows that one out of every 20 patients in the US get infections from lack of proper hand hygiene in hospitals, with some losing their lives as a result. Connected hand-hygiene stations monitor hand hygiene compliance in real time: any time a healthcare professional comes near a patient without washing their hands a sensor beeps, reminding them of their duty to treat their patients with clean hands.
Optimizing a hospital or healthcare center can take many forms; cutting unnecessary costs and streamlining daily functions are just two ways IoT has real value in a medical facility. Millions of dollars are lost annually due to lost or stolen equipment, which has a real knock on effect when it comes to patient treatment and resources. Attaching sensors to equipment allows hospital staff to track any piece of equipment in real time, which not only reduces theft but also allows tracking of the overall use of equipment. And by tracking usage, administrators can more easily understand when to replace or perform maintenance, thus avoiding equipment downtime.
Much of today’s medical research lacks critical real-world information, instead using controlled environments and volunteers. IoT opens up a sea of valuable data and information through analysis, real-time field data, and testing, delivering far superior, more practical, reliable data. This, in turn, yields better solutions and discovery of previously unknown issues.