IoT Healthcare: What the Future Holds for the Healthcare Industry
An aging population, expensive medical services, and outdated healthcare infrastructure have all increased the need for IoT healthcare. Affordable and innovative health care is not a blurry dream, but a future reality. The IoT provides us with an opportunity to fundamentally change this industry.
In our article, we’ve gathered the most important facts about IoT healthcare. You will find out why the Internet of Medical Things is vital and what benefits it brings along.
IoT Healthcare: Revolution in the Industry
When two industries combine forces, something tremendous and life-changing is created. The same happened with health care when it was introduced to the Internet of Things. We will be witnessing the beneficial effect of this encounter very soon because more and more companies are releasing products for end users.
To better understand this new symbiosis, let's find out what this means and how it all started.
What is IoT and How Does it Work?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is also referred to as the Internet of Everything (IoE). In simple words, the IoT can be described as a network of interconnected devices. Yet, to understand the true nature of it, we need to dive deeper into the concept.
So, what is IoT and how does it work? The IoT consists not of separate devices, but of the whole ecosystem of interconnected gadgets. These devices are equipped with various sensors and processors that allow for information to be collected from surrounding environments and sent over the network. This process happens without any human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
The Internet of Things use cases are numerous – from smart thermostats and bulbs, to car trackers, and even health monitors. For example, a thermostat can detect the temperature in a room and send data to the cloud. After that, the data can be sent to an application on the user’s device so that they can decide to either turn the temperature up or down through the app or manually. The system can also automatically perform necessary actions based on predefined user preferences with no human interaction. The latter option is called machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.
IoT devices make our everyday life more comfortable and allow us to automate things that are routine. The next step of their evolution is penetration into other industries, including healthcare. This is where we can speak about the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
IoT in Healthcare: Short Overview
The home automation, security, and communication industries are rapidly adopting IoT. The adoption of IoT in healthcare is, however, slower. But, in the past decade, the number of IoT devices in healthcare has grown immensely.
IoT healthcare devices have been introduced in various forms. You can find various types of heart rate, temperature, and blood glucose level monitors on the market. Medical devices can collect valuable data and provide doctors with extra insights into symptoms and any human body malfunctions. This helps to identify issues before they become critical, and doctors are able to deliver medical help earlier. These devices are a real game-changer for the healthcare industry.
Population aging fuels our need for IoT healthcare. According to the World Populations Prospects study by the United Nations, the number of people aged 60 years and over surpassed 962 million globally in 2017. This number is projected to double by 2050 and more than triple by 2100. The older population is growing faster than younger age groups. We can observe this situation across the globe. As life expectancy rises, so will the healthcare costs. This is where IoT can help, by reducing the cost of healthcare services.
Early applications of the medical IoT include smart beds. These detect when a patient occupies it, tries to get up, or leaves the bed. These beds can control the pressure and support applied to the patient, reducing the risk of bed sores.
Other IoT healthcare solutions are home medication dispensers. These automatically upload data to the network every time the pills are taken or not taken. The care team can quickly intervene in case of overdose.
Smart Fridge for vaccines by Weka is another vivid example of IoT healthcare. It addresses vaccine management and storage, monitors storage conditions, and detects possible spoilage.
Today, there are 3.7 million medical devices in use that collect and monitor health data. Allied Market Research reports that the Internet of Medical Things market size will reach $136.8 billion worldwide by 2021.
The Internet of Medical Things is gaining traction, and in the future, the number of healthcare applications will only grow as IoT in healthcare promises a lot of benefits. Read on to learn what these benefits really are.
Want to develop an application for healthcare?
Our team can explain to you the software development process for healthcare products in detail as well as estimate your app cost and timeline.
Specific Aspects of the Internet of Things in Healthcare
To understand why it is worth creating your own IoT healthcare solution, you first need to know what benefits it can provide and how to overcome the challenges this innovative industry brings along.
Benefits of Applying IoT in Healthcare
IoT healthcare’s evolution brings along numerous and undeniable benefits. The IoT and healthcare allowed for the creation of incredible solutions for many pressing problems. These help us reduce health costs and waiting time, and make healthcare and medical checks accessible to everyone from home.
Let’s dive deeper into the upside potential of IoT healthcare to learn more.
- Real-time health monitoring
Real-time monitoring with smart health devices can save lives in the event of a medical emergency. An IoT healthcare system receives information about heart failure, asthma attack, or another malfunction. It then transfers the collected data to an emergency station.
A study shows that by integrating activity trackers and blood pressure monitors, a hospital was able to reduce the readmission rate by 50% in 30 days among patients with heart failure.
- Professional assistance around the world
Smart medical devices collect and transfer important health data, including but not limited to blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen and blood sugar levels, ECGs, etc. Data stored in the cloud can be shared with doctors from any part of the world. They can look at the data from a device with the installed app to provide a specialized medical consultation and help patients regardless of their location. As a result, we get better medical services no matter where and when.
- Reduced emergency room wait times
What is more boring and annoying than waiting? Not to mention, waiting in an emergency room is far worse. On average in the USA, a visitor waits from 10 to 50 minutes in the emergency room before being seen by a doctor. This is how long you may also end up needing to wait to receive pain meds for broken bones.
By implementing the AutoBed software, Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City was able to slash wait time for 50% for patients in need of inpatient care. The software with smart beds tracks the bed occupancy in the hospital and provides insight into how to place patients more efficiently and use the available patient capacity to the utmost.
- Data insights
IoT medical devices are invaluable to doctors and scientists. IoT healthcare applications and health sensors receive a lot of data. While this data alone isn’t worth much, its value is in quantity and comprehensiveness. IoT sensors can collect data around the clock, which is not possible with traditional medical devices. A wealth of information from thousands of patients provides better insight into symptoms. Scientists can better understand how pharmaceutical drugs impact the course of a disease and figure out the best methods of treatment.
- Lower costs
This is probably the most important advantage of the Internet of Things in healthcare. IoT healthcare solutions and connected medical devices monitor health in real time, so patients can visit doctors less often. Overall, this reduces costs due to fewer hospital stays and readmission.
- Next-level patient experience
Patients who are connected to the IoT healthcare system end up having a better experience, as they are more engaged in their treatment. Smart devices in healthcare provide valuable data about the patient, so doctors are able to diagnose health issues with higher accuracy.
IoT healthcare provides us with unlimited possibilities. It makes healthcare more accessible and gives doctors valuable insight into patients’ health conditions outside the hospital. Patients receive the highest quality medical treatment regardless of their location.
Challenges IoT Healthcare Should Address
There are a few crucial matters to pay attention to when considering the creation of healthcare applications. Below you will find the main challenges IoT healthcare should address to move forward.
- Data security and privacy
The implementation of IoT in healthcare has given rise to concerns about data security and privacy. Modern IoT medical devices use secure methods of communicating information to the cloud, yet, they often lack data protocols and the standards necessary to withstand serious hacker attacks.
The Internet of Medical Things is susceptible to hackers who may compromise the Personal Health Information (PHI) of both patients and doctors. Stolen data can be used for fraudulent actions such as the creation of fake IDs to buy drugs, insurance claims in a patient’s name, and identity theft.
There are also concerns regarding data ownership regulations and GDPR in the sphere of IoT healthcare.
- Integration of devices and protocols
It is impossible to create the Internet of Medical Things with just a single device. A multifaceted IoT healthcare universe needs to be able to utilize the features of various devices with different protocols. This need hinders the process of data collection and aggregation.
Smart healthcare solutions use various communication protocols. Lack of uniformity creates a disruption in the acceptance of IoT sensor technology. this also puts a limitation on the scalability of the IoT in healthcare.
- Data overload
The main purpose of the Internet of Medical Things is data acquisition. As IoT healthcare expands to include more and more IoT healthcare devices, doctors face the danger of data overload. Doctors struggle to make reliable prognoses and make the right decisions based on data from many patients. The concern is justified. In the years to follow we will inevitably see the tremendous growth of connected medical devices.
- Cost inefficiency
Even though the Internet of Medical Things is designed to reduce medical costs, the problem is still ever-present. Existing healthcare IoT hasn’t yet significantly influenced the price of medical services. Inter-connected medical devices are quite expensive. This is the main challenge IoT healthcare is designed to solve.
Moreover, the cost of building the IoMT infrastructure is enormous. The initial spending on setting up a system includes the cost of hardware, apps, and cloud platforms. this is what stops many companies from utilizing the IoT in healthcare solutions.
As you can see, the challenges are quite significant. However, these disadvantages of the Internet of Things in healthcare don't outweigh its advantages. Proper planning, security systems, and infrastructures in place are a way to solve them all.
Want to know how blockchain can benefit medical solutions?
Read our article Blockchain and Healthcare: Use Cases Today and Opportunities for the Future to learn more about blockchain in the healthcare industry.
Internet of Medical Things: Possible Healthcare Applications
The scope of use for future applications of IoT healthcare is open-ended and is the most exciting thing for healthcare application developers. Let’s review it in more detail.
- Innovative drug management system
Medical drug overdose is a very persistent problem, especially among elderly people. Tiny pills with integrated sensors can solve this issue. These indigestible sensors are used with a body-patch that can detect usage and proper dosage. This information is sent to a doctor and is accessible to the patient through a smartphone app.
The same system can be implemented into a smart pill bottle. AdhereTech has already developed such a solution.
These health care appliances and applications can send reminders to take drugs on time, provide insight into the patients’ habits, and help prevent fatal outcomes in the event of a drug overdose.
A system like this could also be used as a drug side effect checker.
- Curing chronic diseases
Today a lot of consumer electronic devices can serve as wearable health monitoring sensors. Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Samsung Gear Fit are among the most popular wearables on the market. They all collect valuable data about the user’s activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns. This data provides valuable insight into a patient’s health and possible issues. Remote patient monitoring is an amazing tool for those who are suffering from chronic diseases.
Combined with analytics and dedicated apps, wearable devices can warn users about issues. They can also provide doctors with the health data gathered over a long span of time to solve recurring issues.
A system with portable devices would track, for example, heart rate and glucose levels. Upon detecting a problem, the system would notify the doctor and send a notification to the patient’s smartphone or another device. This would reduce the need for doctor visits.
HealthKit API by Apple helps to create health and fitness applications for iOS and watchOS with a seamless user experience. You can use hardware manufactured by Apple and build a compatible healthcare app.
Read our article Healthcare Mobile App Development: Types, Trends and Features to learn how to create the next big app for healthcare.
- Inventory tracking
Patient and staff safety is a priority for hospitals. Clinics use various devices, including MRIs, X-ray machines, CT scanners, and other equipment. If this equipment is not checked regularly, it may become dangerous for patients and staff. The integration of IoT in healthcare can prevent these sorts of problems.
Equipment monitoring systems would monitor performance issues and notify staff. This system would notice the issues long before they end up compromising the safety of medical equipment.
The benefits of a system like this are remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, and timely performance upgrades.
- Medical sensors
Biosensors are an integral part of the IoT healthcare ecosystem. According to the research by Markets Insider, the market revenue is ptojected to exceed $29 billion by 2024. These connected medical devices use biological material and sensors. With their help, they collect data on blood, respiration, tissue, and other parts of the body.
Another type of medical sensor is non-biological. These measure body temperature, motion, heart rate, the electrical activity of muscles, etc.
These solutions have an unlimited spheres of application. Patients can track vital measurements from their home with handy mobile applications.
IoT healthcare can be implemented in various applications and solutions. A mere decade ago the industry was in its infancy, and now we see its rapid growth, which will continue for the foreseeable future. By combining connected smart devices with software, we can create unprecedented IoMT solutions that change the way medical services are provided.
IoT Healthcare: Looking into the Innovative Future
Concerns about security, data exchange and storage, infrastructure costs and lack of regulations impact connected healthcare. Yet, the IoT healthcare industry is on the rise. The need for healthcare IoT devices will continue to grow despite all the drawbacks. The benefits they bring are too attractive to ignore.
It is time to make healthcare mobile.
Do you have a brilliant idea for the next revolutionary IoT healthcare solution?
Our team is ready to take on the software development part of your project. We would be happy to deliver a top-notch solution.