IoT for Healthcare: A Huge Opportunity

With a new generation of wearable devices coming, doctors will be able to regularly check the progress of patients by accessing data in the cloud.

America’s population is aging. In 2014, people 65 years or older numbered about 46 million, or 14.5 percent of the population. According to statistics from the Administration on Aging, the ratio is going to balloon to almost 22 percent by 2040. And that’s just one of many factors placing an ever-growing strain on our healthcare system. Healthcare providers need ammunition to deliver better care at lower costs – and it’s no surprise that an array of connected devices – the Health Internet of Things, if you will – is leading that charge.

One common problem of many patients: managing their medication. And this is one way – nearly the low-hanging fruit of the H-IOT world – that connected devices can help. Connected medication dispensers can let patients know when it’s time to take medicine and to monitor that it has, in fact, been taken. All automatically. Imagine a carousel that spins to present the right medication – even stored in its original pill bottle – at the right time. A wireless network could text caregivers if the patient doesn’t take the medication as prescribed.

Technology is also increasingly important for ensuring that patients – particularly older ones and those suffering from dementia – remain safe both from physical injury and from, in some cases, wandering away from their center of care. H-IOT solutions can offer an array of tools for doing that remotely and without 24/7 supervision.

Using a combination of networked devices, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, wearable GPS tracking devices can be configured with virtual “geofences” to alert caregivers if things go awry.

In similar fashion, the H-IOT could offer a modern update to the traditional Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), which consists of a wearable pendant that users can trigger to signal for help. But rather than waiting for a patient to press a panic button, contemporary technology could use machine learning and artificial intelligence to learn patterns and respond to unusual behavior, such as proactive fall detection. If the software knows what a fall looks like mathematically, false positives (like dropping the sensor, for example) won’t trigger an alert.

And that’s just scratching the surface. H-IOT applications go beyond monitoring and adherence. In fact, some companies are exploring the possibility of bringing medical devices – both externally worn and fully implanted – into the H-IOT.

For one compelling example, consider pain measurement and physical therapy applications – the right solution can more objectively score pain and recovery, something that today is all too subjective. As you may know if you’ve ever visited a doctor’s office with any sort of physical pain, doctors and therapists use a completely subjective 10-point rating scale to assess your condition and recovery. “Rate your pain on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most pain.” As a modern alterative, imagine a wearable motion sensor device that automatically collects information like range of motion, strength, and smoothness of motion. The device wirelessly transmits the data the cloud for processing and analysis. Such a system would allow physical therapists, doctors, and insurers to regularly check the progress of patients, adding scientific rigor to what is today a subjective self-assessment.

Finally, there’s no technical reason that even implanted devices cannot be networked and connected, allowing diagnostic information to be transmitted in real time for logging and evaluation by medical professionals. Indeed, the next decade should be an exhilarating time for the growth of medical applications that leverage smart, networked devices to lower costs, improve efficacy, and help patients lead better lives.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can provide help with healthcare operations in addition to other features such as patient communications and incident management.

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