Automation is everywhere – in our phones, in our cars, in our homes. The Internet of Things (IoT) is an inter-operational network of physical devices, vehicles, and other electronic items. The network enables all of these devices to connect to one another and to the internet via wireless technology. This allows developers to add technology-based features, including the ability to deliver real-time experiences.
As of this year, IoT is starting to transform healthcare. More specifically, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is transforming how patients are being kept safe and healthy. The IoMT allows medical devices and applications to gather data and communicate, over a wireless network, with healthcare IT systems. A few examples of this connecting network include remote patient monitoring of chronic patients and tracking medication orders. Its main objective is to enable a greater range of services in device management, patient care, and service delivery.
Today, there are over 3.7 million medical devices helping to inform health-related decisions. By 2021, it is expected that the IoT healthcare market will reach $136.8 billion worldwide.
Transforming from an art to a science
Technology is a vital driver as IoT is changing the science of medicine. Where would medicine be without timely and accurate diagnostic equipment? The scientific approach has helped in the development of numerous research, testing, and reporting tools. IoT is now accelerating things even further by:
- Maintaining medical records – Medical data has moved from hard copy (paper records, EKGs on paper, etc.) to digital copy. Now, saving and storing digital versions of x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, EKGs, and other patient data is possible.
- Eliminating paperwork – Patients can sign in for appointments, enter relevant data, and research medical issues via devices, such as kiosks. This ultimately eliminates unnecessary paperwork that records systems previously used.
- Detecting what is invisible to the naked eye – X-rays devices are now IoT devices with sensors that can form a digital image. That image moves over the internet where medical personnel can view it and store it in a patient’s record if necessary. Improvements in signal and image processing, in many instances, facilitate early detection of issues before they become a critical problem.
- Adhering to doctor’s orders – IoT is currently assisting with workflow optimization, medical device integration, and inventory management. It does not intend to replace doctors. It does, however, intend to provide them with the data gathered from devices for better diagnoses and treatment plans. Similarly, IoT devices can help to monitor patient behavior and activity away from the office, ensuring adherence to doctors’ orders.
- Monitoring patients’ health – New blood glucose monitors are now transmitting real-time glucose levels when connected to a smartphone. This makes it easier for certain patients, such as diabetics, to share their results with their healthcare professionals and allow for more timely and personalized care.
Another example of a device that is transformed through IoT application is the common cardiac pacemaker. Once implanted into a patient’s chest, external equipment is able to interact with the pacemaker. As a result, controlling and programming the pacemaker is possible, as well as saving any data derived from it.
IoT even extends to the operating room. Now, robotic devices can further assist surgeons in a wide range of surgeries. A surgeon’s skilled hands, with the guidance of robotic controls, can remove abnormal tissue.
IoT also extends to pharmacies. Prescriptions are being sent through the internet to a pharmacy that is partially or fully automated. It is likely that many of the steps – writing, filling out, and delivering the prescriptions – will become increasingly automated.
Contributing towards a digitized healthcare system
IoT continues to evolve as real-time experiences are changing the way devices interact. From creating customized pharmaceuticals to determining care guidelines based on each individual patient, IoMT is opening the door to more personalized healthcare. Yet, in order for IoMT to truly be transformative, healthcare organizations must learn how to turn data insights into action. Only by driving