In the blog post below we’re exploring how IoT is offering new abundant opportunities for healthcare and what smart health solutions already exist to improve patients’ care.
Fitness trackers and smart home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home have already become part of a daily routine for many users. The Internet of Things growth is skyrocketing, though the technology is not very new. The idea originated in the 1990s, and since then it has unfolded into an intelligent concept that is increasingly gaining attention among biggest technology manufacturers in the world (Microsoft Corporation, General Electric, IBM Corporation, Cisco Systems) and is experiencing a 23% growth rate annually.
IoT has brought to life the idea of connecting information, devices and humans both on a local and global scale. The sky is the limit when it comes to the choice of a field, industry or business where IoT can be usefully applied. But it is the healthcare that currently maintains the position of the fastest adopting industry for IoT and here’s how it does it.
How IoT can transform healthcare delivery
The Internet of Things is one of the biggest opportunities for healthcare providers to reduce the costs for patients and improve the overall quality of services provided by medical staff. The small cost and a variety of available sensors along with the cross-device connectivity technology allow the capture, maintenance and automatic processing of patient data, lowering the chances of making a mistake, offering on-time medical aid and increasing overall efficiency.
The greatest advantage that IoT has to offer to the healthcare is the prevention of a large number of errors caused by incorrect treatment, human inability to respond rapidly and other mistakes resulting from poor staff attention and related factors. IoT is capable of specifically providing high value for elderly patients, individuals suffering from chronic diseases and patients in need of constant supervision.
The IoT technology in the healthcare system is driven by advanced solutions that allow:
- Collecting, sharing and analyzing health data received from health monitoring devices in real time
- Providing better treatment based on more specific data
- Reaching a wider range of healthcare providers
- Providing remote patient monitoring through video and audio streaming
- Sending emergency notifications to family members and a patient’s physician
- Tracking the treatment process and sharing information with clinicians from around the country or other parts of the world
- Managing and improving the hospital facility assets both for the staff and patients.
Accenture Health research estimates that the total value of smart solutions for IoT in medical and healthcare industry will reach $163 billion in 2020. Their survey has also found that with the implementation of IoT technology, healthcare providers are already capable of achieving a more than 40% cost savings in wellness and prevention programs.
What are IoT health tools and devices?
The Internet of Things has introduced a new idea of taking care of one’s health — users have received the power of control over their health and lifestyle. And this control is highly-personalized because data generated by connected smart devices is unique to each user. The variety and types of IoT devices are growing non-stop, suggesting new solutions to a diverse list of daily needs.
Here’s what you can hear and see about tools and devices of medical IoT:
- Wearables (wireless bands).
With wearables, IoT is progressing in two directions, wellness and prevention and health monitoring for individuals with chronic states who are staying at home.
Such devices generate precise and detailed information about an individual’s basic physical state (e.g., measuring blood pressure, heart rate and its variability, respiratory rate, temperature), collect data and send it either to a companion smartphone app or directly to a doctor’s office. The Internet of Things in healthcare offers wearable devices that use ultrasound to send data and provide remote control or have push buttons that can activate emergency medical assistance.
- Talking medical apps and devices.
We live in an era when devices can talk and remind patients about taking a medicine or updating their prescriptions. The devices can even provide the much-needed advice or training on how to conduct certain medical procedures.
- Cloud-based platforms.
At another level, the Internet of Things in healthcare is developing wireless devices that collect, store and display clinical data. Cloud platforms establish cross-device connectivity and implement smart features into medical software systems and equipment.
- Smart clothes and sensor-enabled goods.
Making your night sleep healthier is not a problem anymore. Sensor-based mattresses won’t let you snore and will track your breathing and heart rate over the night. And in the morning an AI toothbrush will monitor the duration and brushed areas and will teach you better cleaning techniques. And when you decide that it’s time for a workout, you can wear a smart T-shirt that can monitor your heart rate, running speed and acceleration during the exercising and eliminate the need for a wristband to be worn during the exercise.
Also, think about fighting insomnia, tracking your baby’s sleep, preventing or managing diabetes, following your mood swings and reducing stress levels that are all possible thanks to health innovations that are currently being made by IoT. Even such a simple thing like a basic checkup with your physician has already been improved and made accurate more than ever.
How a basic health checkup with a stethoscope can become smart
Have you ever thought of turning such an ordinary medical tool as stethoscope into a super device that provides 100% precise information to your doctor, so it can be saved for future reference and compared with the previously collected information on lung or heart sounds? Or that it can be shared with other physicians too without traveling to their office while giving absolutely the same source information?
We’ve come to live in the age when smart healthcare is not a distant future. Such tools have already been invented and have been approved. So it’s just a short matter of time when you go for an appointment with your doctor and see a digital stethoscope that catches and delivers any slightest noise it hears in your body.
The Eko Core is a digital stethoscope that switches between acoustic and digitally amplified sound and thus enhances the sound quality by making it louder and clearer for a doctor and achieves a superior auscultation experience. The device has been certified and is HIPAA-compliant and FDA cleared. It has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, CNN, Washington Post, and TechCrunch.
But smart devices more than often don’t have a standard screen like that of a phone, so you can immediately see the captured data in numbers or charts. Mobile apps come as an easy solution for delivering precious information and make it accessible both for patients and doctors at the same time.
For the Eko Core, Onix team has developed an Android app that wirelessly connects to the stethoscope, collects the sound recording, creates phonocardiograms, provides playback, adds notes for specific regions of the chest or back, and securely shares this information with a doctor and patient. The app can be installed on a smartphone or a tablet and allows you to keep your personal information as it is, eliminating the dependence on such factors as noisy environment, subcutaneous fat or a doctor’s ability to hear all sounds clearly.
Embracing digital technology to solve healthcare needs in the future is an essential step that will help reduce the number of errors occurring due to a human factor and will subsequently improve the healthcare efficiency during a basic checkup.
Also, such an example as the Eko Core shows that a smart device is not necessarily a new and complicated solution, but rather an improved vision of an existing tool, a tool that considers current major drawbacks and provides a way to get rid of them.