The healthcare industry is larger and more complex than it has ever been. Technological advances and medical breakthroughs are at an all-time high…and, unfortunately, so are chronic diseases and soaring healthcare costs. From hospitals and doctors to insurers and home care, there are countless pain points throughout the system.
However, the Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the game. Having machines, devices, and sensors that are connected to each other and can communicate with the right people has the potential to provide solutions for many of these problems. And, they all need apps to manage and control them. Let’s look at the various ways the IoT is disrupting the healthcare industry.
One of the most important and utilized features of the IoT is the ability to monitor the functions and health of all the machinery and devices that make systems run. This is used in manufacturing applications most often, where the smooth operation of multi-million dollar machines is essential to the production and profitability of the company. IoT connected devices report repair schedules and alert technicians to any potential problems, which saves companies millions in costly repairs and downtime.
Medical devices and machinery, like dialysis machines and heart monitors, are crucial to any patient’s health, as factory machines are to their business. The difference is that medical devices can make the difference between life and death. Having connected hardware that can self-report any problems to the right people is the way of the future, and the IoT is the perfect solution.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
One of the first aspects of the healthcare industry to be digitized was patient health records. Having a centralized database for healthcare professionals has helped medical professionals administer expedient and accurate care for decades. With the advent of devices that can communicate with these records, critical information can be collected in real time from wearable devices or monitors. Additionally, various systems connected by the IoT can organize this data for easy analysis, and even predict potentially dangerous medical conditions before they happen.
There are also security issues connected to any storage or transmission of personal health records (PHR). Any hardware, servers, or devices that perform this function need to be HIPAA compliant, as do the mobile apps that monitor and control these devices. These are closely monitored and rigidly enforced regulations, so anyone involved with the development and operations of these systems needs to have plenty of experience in this area.
Portable IoT Devices
This is truly fascinating technology, and new devices are emerging constantly. Wearables like Fitbit smart watches are by far the most popular and well-known IoT items, but there are many additional devices that merit examination. There are portable heart monitors and blood sugar sensors that keep patients and doctors aware of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. And exciting new devices, like smartphone-connected hearing aids and ingestible microsensors that relay crucial information from inside the body to both the patient and their doctor.
Mobile apps that monitor and control these devices are high in demand. Now, the more technical medical devices, like a heart monitor, are likely to have rather basic technical reporting capabilities that are specific to the device itself. But more personal health and fitness devices, like Fitbit, have apps with incredible UX/UI, push notifications and messaging to remind and motivate the user, and even social capabilities. Connecting and sharing goals and accomplishments with family and friends is very effective in the quest to get healthy, so apps that feature that sort of connectivity are trending high now.
The healthcare industry also includes government and university entities that monitor public health as a whole, researching and studying data that can improve the overall quality of life around the world. With such a data-driven model, the ability to place connected sensors that can monitor various environments and report results can truly be a difference maker. Air monitors in polluted cities and temperature monitors in crucial refrigeration units are two interesting ways the IoT are impacting the public health sector.
Additionally, the IoT can make a difference by increasing connectivity to medical personnel in remote and rural areas. This is quite a problem, both domestically and internationally, and any support goes a long way to bringing much-needed aid to needy areas.
There are so many other applications for the IoT in the burgeoning healthcare sector, it’s hard to keep track. Smart pill bottles that remind users to take their medicine and alert doctors when they don’t. Smart homes imbedded with sensors for Parkinson’s patients that can sense erratic movements and report symptoms immediately. Hospital beds that connect to doctors and administrators to signal availability. As these various systems continue to evolve and connect, more effective and efficient healthcare on the horizon is truly attainable.
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