How the Internet of Things Is Redefining Healthcare

September 7, 2016

11:00 am

We are all familiar with the “Life Alert” device. People at risk for having medical emergencies at home wear the device around their necks, and can then press a button to call 911 when an emergency arises. Individuals with high blood pressure can now wear a monitor which sends blood pressure readings to their doctor’s offices.

It’s called the Internet of Things (IoT). And it’s coming to the healthcare industry in wonderful ways.

Who Benefits?

In the world of healthcare, IoT is an amazing liberation for the elderly and the disabled. They can live at home, knowing that technology is at work and will alert their physicians/caregivers if there are problems. While they otherwise would struggle to live independent lives, they now can, because interventions only occur when issues arise. The cost savings for these individuals is massive.

The healthcare industry benefits too. Instead of housing individuals who need to be monitored, remote monitoring allows healthcare professionals to receive data, analyze it, make decisions and then spend other necessary time on patients who need real face-to-face care. This results in greater efficiency and lower costs of operation. And with a growing population of elderly, the ability to control care and the environment within a patient’s home means less crowded medical/nursing home facilities and better care for those patients who do need to be there.

Example Devices

Here are just a few of the technological advances/devices that are in current use:

  • Remote alerts that will remind in-home patients to take their medications
  • Door locks and other monitors that will keep track of Alzheimer’s and autistic patients, with GPS locators should they wander.
  • Smart home technologies that can control thermostats, actually make meals and send videos back to remote caregivers. As Tom Yesowich, CEO of Uxari, a company that sets up home automation and monitoring systems, states:

“We are only at the tip of this iceberg, so to speak. While today we can set up controls for any appliance, for turning thermostats and ovens on and off, for remote camera monitoring, for locks and other security, iOT is developing at such a rapid pace, the time will come when we will remotely monitor, control, and receive alerts even when a damaged roof or an impending plumbing issue is rearing its head. We will be able to mow our lawns and heat our driveways and sidewalks to melt ice and snow, all from any remote location. The possibilities are endless.” Imagine the benefit to the elderly and disabled who want to remain independent.

  • Monitoring of patient use of equipment and supplies that they use at home – inhalers, oxygen, etc. Add to that home testing with results sent directly to the doctor’s office, and the lives of patients change significantly. Caregivers can alter dosage amounts and see to it that medications and supplies are delivered.

These types of developments, those that keep patients and their medical caregivers connected, are resulting in an entire ecosystem within the patient medical care provider communities. Patients no longer have to be transported to doctor’s offices for routine checks and tests, and this is particularly important for patients in rural areas; patients only need to be admitted to hospitals when the data indicates they should be.

The Future of IoT Medical Care

It’s a pretty wide-open field, this connectivity and care between people and their medical providers. Consider robotics as just one example. Many see a future in which robots perform simple surgical procedures within patients’ homes or assisted living facilities, all directed by a remote physician. Many see direct communication between patient and caregiver via patients’ televisions or other screen devices. Diagnoses will be remotely accomplished. Medications will be prescribed and delivered by drones, and the patients never need to leave their homes. We can only contemplate how augmented and virtual reality may one day enter the picture of home health care – it promises to be huge.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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