Technologies have long become the best friends of the healthcare sector. We can visit our doctors without leaving home, measure the vital indicators with our smartphones or tiny wearables, and monitor the performance of implanted devices that keep our hearts beating. None of these, however, would be possible without using IoT in the healthcare industry.
Internet of medical things denotes the network of connected devices and software used by patients, physicians, hospitals, and clinical workers to take care of patient’s health needs and hospital management. Mobile apps, electronic healthcare records management software, programs that connect to the implanted pacemakers — these are just a few Internet of Things healthcare examples that became extremely popular during the past decade. In this article, we’ll discover the reason for their being in demand, the best use cases, and approaches to consider when developing one.
Internet of Things in Healthcare: Market Forecast and Endless Possibilities
The market expansion of medical IoT has been monitored and evaluated for long enough. With the emerging concept of ‘smart hospitals’, which market has already reached $30 billion globally, medical IoT draws even more attention, as it’s one of the key things that make it possible. As the technologies advance and the ‘smart hospital’ adoption increases, so do the IoT use cases in healthcare and their market share. Here are a few key stats:
The medical IoMT market can be divided into the following segments, depending on the use type and the end-users:
- Wearables: those that don’t have to be FDA-approved like fitness trackers, and those that are regarded as medical devices, such as hip protectors, neurostimulators, etc.
- In-home: solutions that are parts of personal emergency response systems (PERS), continuous remote monitoring, telehealth, virtual visits
- Community-used: all those solutions that ensure the provision of mobility services, emergency and first aid help, kiosks, point-of-care stations, and logistics
- In-clinic: IoMT used for administrative or clinical purposes (virtual rooms, cloud-based examination platforms, etc.)
- In-hospitals: solutions for assets, inventory, personnel, and patient flow management (guiding systems, hygiene compliance alerts, etc.)
Each IoMT that belongs to these categories helps the medical providers, facility workers, and patients to improve the quality of care, awareness level, and shorten the delivery time. As you see, there are plenty of levels to enter if you’re thinking about developing the IoT for medical use or adopt one in your practice. So, which IoT approach in healthcare to follow?
Best Approaches of IoT in Healthcare
As with developing any app or program, one needs to clearly understand what function this new creation will do and what goal one wants to achieve using it. There are a few approaches to view before starting the development.
Remote health monitoring
Starting from monitoring vital indicators like pulse, blood pressure, oxygen level to more complex that recognizes the patient’s facial expressions, mood, and psychological state — health monitoring devices and software are plenty. The pandemic showed an increased need for remote monitoring and telehealth since the hospitals’ capacities weren’t enough to accept the patients with COVID-19 complications and regular patients. Plus, many patients need continuous monitoring even after the hospital discharge (after heart surgeries or stroke). As a result — a 38x increased use of telehealth services comparing to the pre-COVID baseline.
Improving patient’s experience
A patient isn’t just a person with health issues — they are also customers whose needs should be satisfied if you want to keep them loyal to your services. The competition for the patient is huge, and the existing networks do their best to seem the most suitable choice. They try to be different and bring more value to the customers. In a fast-paced society, this value lies in providing faster, more affordable, and accessible services and fit them into the patient’s schedule.
Drug intake management
One of the most popular directions for medical IoT concerns administering drug usage – and rightly so. Not all patients adhere to medication regimens, which makes the whole treatment process less effective. Another issue is that many people, especially the elderly, have to be reminded of taking the pills. Add to that the growing number of older population — and you’ll see why developing the drug management IoT is a trend.
Automating the routine work is what every sphere is trying to do, so humans can dedicate the time to what only they can do best. In healthcare, automation means data gathering and processing, speech-to-text conversion, drug dosage management, etc.
Automating brings many advantages like less time spent on routine paperwork and more attention to patients, but it also eliminates human errors, which at times can be life-saving. Electronic healthcare records and management systems are prime examples of IoT in this direction.
Device performance monitoring
Smart beds and interactive monitors also need care, and there IoT solutions that deliver it. Any doctor will tell you that preventing a disease costs less than curing it, so is preventing the costly machinery from breaking down in the critical moment. The monitoring IoT solutions assess the condition of the given hardware and alert in case any fixing or check-up is needed.
Hospital infrastructure management
Personnel, operating room, the hospital inventory, and even the lighting systems — all of those and more need an upgrade that can cut hospital spendings, make the doctors focus on their primary responsibilities, and enhance the patient’s experience and outcomes.
For instance, the nurses should manually track the capacity and the availability of beds in the hospital, which results in long wait times and speedy discharge. The adoption of a tracking system could decrease the patient’s wait times, makes the nurse’s work easier, and optimize the patient flow.
So, there are plenty of directions and approaches to choose from when developing a medical IoT. Yet, there are some IoT in healthcare use cases that are worthy of a closer look.
Most Popular IoT Healthcare Use Cases
- Remote Patient Care
Mt Sinai Hospital partnered with Omron, the developer of Vital Sight software, to provide at-home hypertension care. The kit includes an electronic blood pressure monitor with a cuff, a weight scale, a medication tracker, and a data hub. After the measurements, the system sends the results to their electronic health records, so the doctors interpret them and detect at-risk patients to prevent the emergency.
- Emergency Care
G.E.’s AutoBed is a system that monitors the beds across the hospital and processes the bed requests from the nurses. This had a huge impact on ER services as it has shortened the wait times for the patients and helped with ER management.
- Tracking of Inventory, Staff, and Patients
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and systems that monitor them are examples of the most widespread solution that keep track of personnel, inventory, and patients. The use cases of them are plenty: from putting a tag around the newborn babies to avoid mixing up to a system that automatically locks the door if you try to take the baby out of the building, or helping to locate the closest defibrillator.
- AR Surgeries
SyncAR technology is making a revolution in surgical science as it enables surgeons with X-ray vision while performing surgeries even on delicate organs like nerves and the brain. Being one of the most sought-after IoT in healthcare examples, it synchronizes with optic and navigation, so the surgeon sees the AR overlay in the microscope oculars. This allows for greater mobility, precision, and sight, which is important during oncological surgeries, in particular.
- Virtual Monitoring of Critical Hardware
Philips e-Alert MRI system tracks the performance of the MRI machine and sends alerts if there is a critical issue. Being one of the most expensive hardware in the clinics, this solution allows for keeping the hardware running correctly for a longer time, which means less unexpected spendings for hospitals and effective care for patients.
- Pharmacy Management
Digestible Abilify MyCite sensor pills and patch monitoring system was introduced by Proteus to help patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression stick to the medication plans and ensure their medication intake. The ingestible biosensor alerts when the tablet is dissolved in the stomach by transmitting a signal to a patch worn on the patient’s abdomen, and then — to a smartphone to notify about adherence.
There’s no doubt that Apple Health and FitBit trackers are the most commonly known use cases of IoT healthcare. They track the vital signs, help their owners to manage their physical activity, and notify when the indicators go above the norm. There are though plenty of other wearables that are more specific.
Take Crew, an app paired with a wearable thermometer to indicate the rise of temperature. Developed in Cork University Hospital, this solution could spot the early signs of having Covid, so the staff can identify the potential cases within the team and isolate the workers, so they don’t spread the disease.
- Hospital Information Management System (HIMS)
Administering the medical office isn’t an easy task, specifically if you need to do it all manually. Human errors are inevitable in this case, which is why automation becomes an answer. With a hospital information management system in place, routine activities like billing, making appointments, creating new records for patients, adding the test results to EHRs, etc. take less time and make the personnel workflow optimized.
- Electronic Healthcare Records System (EHR)
EHRs are the next big thing for those hospitals that want to enhance customer experience and be digital-friendly. Empeek has a case in point of how the EHR and telehealth platform adoption helped unload the staff from routine tasks and flatten the readmission rates curve.
- Mobile Healthcare
Empeek’s cardiac care mobile device is one of the mobile IoTs solutions that enable 24/7 tracking of the patient’s cardiac performance. It has become an alternative for in-hospital monitoring and enables the patients to stay at home and the doctors to receive the needed information to ensure continuous monitoring.
Using IoT in healthcare isn’t just a cool thing to do — it’s a prerequisite for having one’s practice competitive in the market, delivering better care, and keeping the machinery in good working condition. Empeek knows how to create IoMT solutions for the medical providers that would ensure a better approach to delivering treatment, comply with regulations, and improve the overall customer experience. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s explore how digital technologies can make your practice stand out!