For several years, there has been an ongoing conversation about ways in which the UK can innovate healthcare to rein in costs and improve patient care. To aid this innovation, the Internet of Things (IoT), is fast becoming a trend in healthcare and can help to lower medical costs and improve the quality of service.
In its growth forecasts, Gartner considers IoT an exponential technology, estimating that in the next three years it will encompass 20.4 billion units, with turnover reaching $3 trillion by 2020. Gartner also states that IoT is the foundation on which digital businesses are built. There are three key challenges that organisations must address early in their IoT transformation: developing stakeholder confidence, choosing the right technical strategy and executing that strategy.
So how are IoT solutions empowering healthcare organisations to improve direct patient care and improve life expectancy?
IoT has been around for decades, but with the widescale adoption of Public Cloud, it’s now become a game changer. Sensors and devices which are now connected to Public Cloud platforms can provide healthcare organisations with valuable data and visibility into operational functions, which in turn can be analysed to improve patient care.
There are several ways in which the integration of an IoT solution and Public Cloud platform can help benefit the Healthcare industry and patients, so let’s take a look at a few examples.
1. Detecting and curing chronic diseases
Significant breakthroughs are being made in the treatment of chronic diseases and much of it is a direct result of the IoT.
By using a combination of wearable tech, next generation analytics and mobile connectivity, personal health can be monitored and shared with doctors to help solve reoccurring issues.
A company called Health Net Connect recently established a population diabetic management program with a goal of improving clinical treatment and reducing medical costs for patients — and they’ve already produced some exciting results.
2. Tracking staff, patients and medical assets
Understandably, staff and patient safety is of utmost concern for any hospital but it is difficult to maintain security without the ability to track assets (staff members, patients and hardware) throughout the building.
Many are turning to the IoT and real-time location systems to facilitate asset tracking. Not only is it an inexpensive method of monitoring day-to-day activities in a hospital setting, but it’s unobtrusive, effective and cutting-edge.
3. Reducing A&E waiting times
With unacceptable A&E waiting times consistently making headlines around the country – hospitals are under pressure to find new ways to see to patients faster.
IoT technology is once again being used to slash waiting times by adding sensors to beds and matching these to incoming patients. NHS Highland's Caithness General Hospital are already trialling this technology to monitor the status/location of medical beds and analyse data to see whether they are occupied or not. This removes the need a large amount of admin from the Maintenance team and enables better time utilisation for servicing beds thus reducing A&E waiting times.
4. Remote Health and Monitoring
The best, and most obvious way to reduce A&E waiting times is to have fewer people being admitted to hospital which is where the IoT can add significant value. Remote health monitoring, sometimes referred to as telehealth works to minimise costs and eliminate the need for some admissions.
But even more important is the ability help improve people’s lives by sparing them, what can sometimes by an unnecessary and traumatic visit to hospital. This is especially the case for elderly people as reportedly, for every day they spend in hospital, they age an entire year through lack of mobility and exposure to other illnesses.
5. Medication Management
One of the most exciting IoT-enabled breakthroughs in healthcare comes in the form of prescription medication. Pills containing microscopic sensors (around the size of a grain of rice) are being developed to send a signal to an external device — usually a patch worn on the body, to ensure proper dosage and usage. Such information could be invaluable when it comes to ensuring patients remember to take their prescriptions and even when prescribing future medications.
Patients also have access to the information, through a handy smartphone app, to track their personal performance and improve their habits.
The examples highlighted above show us only a small insight into what’s possible in the near future but it’s clear to see IoT certainly has a significant role to play in shaping the way healthcare is delivered in the future.
To discover how some of the UK’s leading Trusts are on the way to embracing digital transformation to transform the way they deliver their life-saving services, click here.
Posted by Yasin Virani