The Internet of Things (IoT) has hit many industries, government, and certainly the lives of consumers. We now have the ability to remotely turn our appliances on or off, and to monitor what goes on in our homes when we are away. Industries can detect machinery issues and repair them remotely. Smart cities are being planned which will provide for everything from easing traffic to controlling lighting, and even to melt our streets when snow and ice threaten transportation and public safety. Another area in which IoT has amazing possibilities is health care.
The Contribution of the Internet of Things to the Healthcare Industry
The biggest revolution that will be occurring in healthcare is the ability to access, retrieve, monitor, and store patient data. This has nothing to do with medical records per se. It has everything to do with connected devices that will provide health care providers with real time information.
Suppose, for example, Bill has high blood pressure, and his doctor wants to monitor that pressure over several weeks in order to determine if a medication is working. Traditionally, Bill would be sent home with a blood pressure device and would take his blood pressure a couple of times a day. He would log those pressures and then call his doctor’s office to report them. Now, however, Bill can wear a small ankle cuff that will report his pressure directly, in real time, to his doctor’s office, just as our home appliances can send information to us when we are not home.
In fact, forecasters state that, by 2020, about 4 billion medical tracking devices will be connected to patients for purposes of monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and so forth. And the one connecting element that will provide for all of this data accumulation and monitoring will be the smart phone, linking patient data collection with the Internet.
Internet of Things Health Care: Extreme Benefits
Here is how the Internet of Things will assist health and wellness in wonderful ways:
- Doctors can make decisions regarding a patients’ care far more quickly than waiting to see that patient in his/her office or hospital.
- Doctor-patient communication has always been difficult. Calling the office during office hours will not get the doctor on the line. Messages must be left and then the wait begins for the doctor to return a call. When medical data is automatically gathered at the doctor’s office, any critical issues can be identified immediately and provided for.
- Alerts and reminders can be sent directly to patients so that they do not forget to take a vital medication or get a prescription refilled.
- There can be a huge cost reduction and time savings by eliminating office visits. Insurance companies are beginning to realize this and are supporting the use of medical device technology.
- In terms of future use in rural or underdeveloped countries with long distances between patients and doctors, medical monitoring devices will allow patients to obtain prescriptions and instructions quickly and without the travel to a doctor’s office or hospital.
Clearly, doctor-patient connections and behaviors are going to change drastically over the next several years. Wearables, real-time data collections, and the ability to respond to patient crises will all make for better and much more efficient care.