IoT (Internet of Things) is being considered as the next “Industrial Revolution” due to its significant impact on our lives and the way we can interact with our ecosystem. We can define IoT as a network of devices that are connected using the internet. These devices have the capability to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. The devices are typically monitored and controlled remotely using a mobile application.
According to research by Business Insider, devices connected to the internet will more than triple by 2020; increase from 10 billion to 34 billion. IoT devices will account for 24 billion, while traditional computing devices (like computers, smart phones, tables, smart watches) will comprise 10 billion. This means that there will be approximately 4 devices for every human being on this planet. By this time, it is expected that $ 6 trillion will be invested in IoT solutions. This investment is expected to generate $ 13 trillion in ROI by 2025. The key drivers for the growth of IoT include increasing internet connectivity, rapid growth in smart phones and availability of low cost sensors.
IoT has the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered through a significant technology disruption. Physical devices such as weighing scale, thermometer, patient’s vitals monitoring device (such as glucose, blood pressure, heart rate and activity monitoring) are being connected to the internet and have the capability to share real-time information. Application of IoT enables collection, recording and analysis of huge volumes of patient data for preventive care, diagnosis, assessing treatment efficacy and providing other valuable actionable insights to patients and doctors. Some of the key impact areas are explained below:
Continuous Clinical Care: Hospitalized patients in critical condition can be continuously monitored using IoT devices. The caregiver has access to continuous automated information regarding patient’s vital signs, thereby improving quality of care through constant attention. The data obtained from patient monitoring devices can be analyzed to provide relevant inputs to patient control devices like ventilators, defibrillators, IV pumps, etc.
Remote Patient Monitoring: Information regarding vital functions can be transmitted and shared real-time with the care giver for remote surveillance of patients. This is particularly relevant for management of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, asthma, etc. According to McKinsey Global Institute, remote patient management can reduce the cost of chronic disease management by 10-25%.
Medication Adherence: Adding sensors to the medicines or delivery mechanisms will enable doctors to track if their patients are adhering to their treatment plan. For e.g., sensors attached to inhalers can be very effective in managing asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Ingestible sensors are expected to track and monitor and consequently improve medication adherence.
Early Prevention: IoT-based monitoring of daily activities and well being can provide early detection of interruptions in everyday routine or abnormal events and provide alerts to family members or emergency responders. For e.g., elderly members living alone can use a wearable monitoring device that can detect and report a fall. The shift from acute care to early intervention is a critical step in the journey to improve healthcare efficiency.
Wellness Programs: Use of smart phone apps, Fitbit-like devices and wearables can be very effective in tracking activity levels and other parameters for monitoring fitness and overall wellness.
Some of the key applications of IoT in healthcare include the following:
- Glucose level sensing for management of diabetes patients
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring for the measurement of heart rate and rhythm, and diagnosis of arrhythmias
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Body temperature monitoring
- Oxygen saturation monitoring
- Monitoring congestive heart failure
Application of IoT can have significant impact in improving access, enhancing quality and lowering cost of care. Some of the key benefits are listed below:
Improvement in Outcomes: Access to real time information enables care providers to make informed decisions and provide evidence based treatment.
Reduction of Errors: Data collection without human intervention, automated workflows and decisions based on actionable insights result in minimizing errors.
Better Disease Management: Continuous patient monitoring and access to real time data enables prevention and early treatment.
Lowering of Costs: Remote patient monitoring on a real time basis and providing home healthcare can reduce visits by doctors and hospital admissions.
Enhanced Patient Experience: Improved outcomes, reduction in errors, and timely intervention results in better patient experience.
Advances in IoT in healthcare have primarily focused on sensing, transmission, storage, analysis and visualization of data. The area of automated interventions using patient control devices has seen relatively less development. We at PALASH IVF believe that in order to realize the full potential of IoT in healthcare, we will need to focus on actuators to transform the digital data into automated physical action.
CEO, Palash IVF