Has the time finally come for the Internet of Things to significantly impact health care? At long last, it seems to be so.
The first factor that has helped make widespread IOT adoption more of a reality is technological advances. Increased broadband access, speed, and wireless spectrum make it possible to transfer the enormous amount of data produced by continuous monitoring. Decreased cost and miniaturization of sensors allows manufacturers to make usable and affordable products. Better video resolution and computer processing have improved the quality and value of data collected and of course, widespread digital adoption has made broad adoption realistic.
In additional to technological advances, changes in payment structures and incentives within the healthcare system have created a system that favors telemedicine and the IOT going forward. Now that physicians can be reimbursed for remote treatments there is less reason to drag a patient into the office. In so many instances, remote monitoring will work just as well (or even better), save time and resources, and be more convenient for the patient. An increasing focus on reimbursement for results also incentivizes healthcare practitioners to invest in some of the remote record gathering and treatment methods that might not have been cost effective in the past.
What’s So Great about IOT?
Why is it that healthcare providers are so excited about IOT? First and foremost, the continuous flow of data makes it much more likely that medicine can be predictive, rather than reactive. The potential to prevent illness as opposed to simply treating it is enormous. While you might visit your doctor once a year, there is a lot happening in the body the other 364 days of the year. With a continuous flow of data, you and your physician will be able to know when something is happening in your body, regardless of whether it happens while you are in your doctor’s office, at work, or sitting on your own living room sofa.
In addition, continuous data, properly analyzed will enable doctors to see patterns not only across populations but for a particular individual. Doctors will be able to monitor the efficacy of medication not just by checking whether you say you feel better a week later, but by monitoring whether you are getting better on a day by day or hour by hour basis. Your healthcare provider will be able to track your body’s reaction to medicine in real time and in certain cases, adjust dosages or change medication more rapidly. You and your doctor will also have a better ability to monitor the impact of your environment on your health and personalize your treatment accordingly. Pre-IOT, your doctor might advise you to keep your stress levels down. With continuous monitoring, both patient and doctor can begin to understand what the stressors are for a particular patient and ideally, use that knowledge to make changes for better health outcomes.
The additional beauty of the IOT is that things get a lot easier for patient and clinician alike. No need to keep a log of your blood pressure. No need for the nurse to come in and take your temperature. This information can go directly from your body to your electronic health record. No forgetting. No mistakes. No extra time required.
What Can Manufacturers Do To Move Things Along?
So we know the technology is there. Payors, clinicians, and patients are eager for adoption. What can manufacturer do to speed things along? For a while there, everyone was focused on all the fancy things devices could do and all the piles of data that could be collected. It was all very cool, but not very helpful. What the healthcare industry really needs is devices that solve problems, that provide meaningful insights, that save money, that save time, and most importantly, that improve health. Solution for the manufacturer? Make it simple, make it safe and secure and above all, make it useful.