In today’s technology-driven era, the healthcare industry is run by a mix of various technologies. The pandemic only acted as a catalyst that fueled the advancements in technology in the healthcare sector last year. The pandemic made us realize how technology can be harnessed for our well being and how dependent we were on it. Be it, healthcare professionals or the common man, we all are now relying on and adapting to emerging technologies. IoT (Internet Of Things) is one such technology that is currently being used robustly in the healthcare domain.
The IoT (Internet of Things) field is growing rapidly as more and more people are accepting it as a part of their daily life. Smart devices and smart building technology are becoming common nowadays. Studies suggest that the smart building market will reach around $109.48 billion by 2026.
There has been a steady growth in the field of smart technology in healthcare over the past several years. With the advent of powerful and smart devices such as smart insulin pens, asthma monitors, connected inhalers and more, available to the common masses allowing them to address and manage their health during times of emergency. Various wearable devices like biosensors and smartwatches aid caregivers to monitor ongoing conditions and gather data, enabling observation and treatment remotely. Previously this was only possible when the patient visited the hospital or clinic in person.
IoT (Internet of Things)
IoT (Internet Of Things) in laymen terms is referred to as a system of internet-connected, interrelated, devices or objects that can transmit or transfers information over a wireless network without the need for human intervention.
There have been sizeable development in many parallel technologies which has led to the rise in IoT. Due to the massive improvement in mobile computing and parallel processing power of hand-held devices, there have been improvements in technologies such as “near field communications” (NFCs) example, Bluetooth. Other technologies such as low energy technology of Rapid Frequency Identification (RFID) got upgrades in storage capacity both on the IC Chip (Integrated Circuit Chip) and cloud storage. Such improvements in technologies all around us propelled a seamless integration of an evolved network of connected computing devices or things, globally which are uniquely identifiable. This complete network is known as the IoT (Internet of Things).
IoT in Healthcare
The current trend prevailing in healthcare is predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. The increase in digitization in this sector is aiding these trends. IoT in the healthcare industry includes the network of connected medical devices, capable to produce, collect and store data. But that’s not all, these medical devices can be connected to a network, can analyse the data and transfer data such as medical images, physiological and critical body signatures and genomics data.
A new term is coined to the mix of IoT and healthcare, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). IoMT is used to describe connected med-tech products.
Let us not take a look at how IoT in healthcare is Enhancing the medical environment with innovative solutions.
Connected medical wearables and other smart technologies are enabling the creation of virtual hospitals. The treatment of outpatients and long-term care can be given remotely by caregivers to the patients from the comfort of their homes. This allows the hospitals to free bed space for patients with more chronic illnesses.
The concept of virtual hospitals have already been trialled and now fully operational in countries like Australia, Middle East and the UK. RPA Virtual Hospital in New South Wales, in Sydney, became the first virtual hospital when it was opened in February of 2020. It was the exact time when the pandemic hit Australia. The hospital was customized and redesigned to provide remote care for coronavirus patients. By using pulse oximeters (a small clip-like device) caregivers could measure oxygen saturation levels and heart rates, and armpit patches were used to measure body temperature. The data accumulated from these devices were transmitted via app to the caregivers of the virtual hospitals.
Wearable biosensors are another type of technology that is helping hospitals provide care, disease detection and disease prevention. These wearables are small and lightweight devices that are worn on the body. These devices help us in monitoring a patients temperature, breathing rate and heart rate, providing caregivers crucial data into an existing progression or an early start of an illness.
It was in the May of 2020 when Philips announced that they launched the next generation wearable biosensor “Philips Biosensor BX100”. This biosensor could help doctors monitor coronavirus patients. It was used to detect the early sign of patient deterioration, including clinical surveillance for COVID-19. The Philips Biosensor BX100 was first installed at OLVG Hospital based out of the Netherlands. The device helped caregivers to remotely observe coronavirus patients in isolation rooms who did not need ventilation. It monitored the chest and collected, stored and transferred heart and respiratory rate which were the top two signs of deterioration. The device was able to monitor by the minute and also gave data to contextual parameters such as ambulation, posture and activity level.
One of the most appraised technology to emerge during the pandemic was Kinsa’s smart app-enabled thermometer. Kensa, later on, decided to publish the anonymised, accumulated data gathered from the smart thermometer across the whole of United States, plotted over a map indicating the groups of high temperatures that might indicate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Other than tracking large spread infections, these smart thermometers and their companion app can help people manage the treatment of the illness by offering consultations based on other parameters such as age and additional symptoms. This consultation and guidance are quite helpful for new parents, who may be unsure of the seriousness of an illness and what symptoms they should they keep a watch for.
Some of the respiratory condition such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma can be managed but requires treatment. However, the lack of compliance with the prescribed treatment plan and inadequate monitoring of disease can cause some serious health issues.
Smart inhalers are just the solution to the problem. Connected inhalers just like smart thermometers are paired with their companion apps. These inhalers aid patients with respiratory diseases to track their medication use. They also give out audio and visual alerts to reminding them to take the doses on time. The inhaler’s companion app also provide their users with step by step guide to improve the inhaler technique and comply with the dosage plan. It can also provide allergen forecasts to determine the cause of their symptoms.
Smart Watches were not designed for medical purposes. However, it is becoming a go-to healthcare tool, facilitated by a wide range of applications and features incorporated by the manufacturers like Samsung, Google and Apple.
There are various health application integrated into smartwatches like activity tracker, sleep cycle monitoring and tracking and movement reminder. These apps help tackle weight gain. Some of the ap help in guided breathing and meditation exercised which are essential for mental health. Samsung, Google and Apple have also incorporated handwashing apps and reminders since the pandemic that promotes and regular handwashing.
As IoT and IoMT devices continue to evolve in the healthcare sector, we will witness our healthcare institutes becoming more efficient offering better experience and outcome. If you are looking for a custom software development company to assist you in creating a network of connected devices, do visit us.