A Brief Overview of IoT In Healthcare

June 26, 2019 - 7 minutes read

Healthcare is an industry that is simultaneously ahead of the curve in a plethora of ways (e.g., robotic surgery) and behind in so many others (e.g., electronic health record system management). But with so many data points floating around, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) can help bring operational laggards up to speed and foster healthier outcomes.

When you look at IoT in the big picture, you start speculating that maybe IoT could solve almost any problem enterprises throw at it. And that’s mostly true; some applications will take much longer to develop, while easier or simpler IoT applications will be used across almost every industry at once. Let’s see how this works in healthcare.

Current Applications for IoT in MedTech

Allied Market Research forecasts the global market value of IoT in healthcare will reach $13.8 billion by 2021. For MedTech applications, IoT’s main language is multi-variate data taken from a multitude of devices. IoT works to send, receive, and connect data in novel ways to improve experiences for enterprises and consumers.

Right now, the subset for MedTech in IoT is called the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). The focus of IoMT is to improve healthcare and treatments for patients and their doctors. Since data collection, storage, and analysis often take the back-burner for doctors and insurance companies, IoMT is aiming to change that with more accurate and efficient algorithms.

IoMT could use AI to sort through data, store it, and tag it accordingly for billing departments to sift through later. With tags and other identifying factors for data, it would be much easier to track down dental records for a patient. And it wouldn’t involve calling the dentist’s office, either. Tagging by disease and illness could also reveal trends about the presentation of many sicknesses. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if we knew that lactose intolerant patients are more likely to get osteoporosis later in life? Insurance companies and medical journals might finally have the significantly-significant data that they need for trials and drug experiments.

IoMT devices can help monitor patients remotely, identify abnormalities in disease symptoms, and even help find a cure for their patients. For example, mesothelioma cancer is often found by doctors when it’s too late to treat. By using electronic monitoring of patients, doctors could detect this form of cancer in its early stages, saving thousands of patients from harsh chemotherapy or a low-quality end of life.

With all of these advancements in diagnosis, detection, treatment, and subsequent management , experts say that healthcare costs should decrease for patients and hospitals as a result. And with automated healthcare and check-ups, patients and doctors will get a lot of time and energy back.

A Nearby Future

While these advancements are great for patients in big cities, rural populations often get left out of the improvements in MedTech. Additionally, older, chronically ill, and disabled patients still find it difficult to receive care, and ultimately, IoMT should become a solution for these minority patients.

At our Los Angeles-based design and development studio, we created a mobile app for cardiac health and treatment. We’ve received wonderful feedback about its use for rural emergency medical professionals. Even informational healthcare applications are much needed for patients whose nearest hospital is more than 30 minutes away.

Using connected devices, like wearables, smartphones, and video chat platforms, doctors can stay informed, spend more time with their patients, and take notes while discussing new issues. This method of check-ups has been shown to be just as effective as an in-person visit (barring any part of the appointment where the doctor might have to look at or feel something).

Diabetes sufferers could easily maintain 24-hour monitoring of their blood sugar, which could give a very early indication of a life-threatening issue. Elderly patients living in solitude could call emergency services using monitoring devices.

If IoMT can take care of patients in difficult-to-reach areas or those with chronic illnesses, it would bring even more improvement for patients in the city.

Risks of IoMT

HIPAA violations can cost an entity hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, court appearances, and damage to the patient’s reputation. MedTech applications often don’t make their way into widespread usage because doctors and insurance companies would rather not risk HIPAA violations.

HIPAA puts the onus on hospitals to store, secure, control, and scan their data constantly for signs of a cybersecurity attack.

For many hospitals, however, it’s not worth the cost to upgrade data servers and cybersecurity protocols to meet current standards. Encryption is a big expense that could fail approval by a hospital’s boardroom.

Cybersecurity in general is a big threat for IoMT’s success. If a patient is on a pacemaker, life support, or oxygen respirator, a hack could leave those patients without a fail-safe solution.

Keep Looking Forward

Even though HIPAA and cybersecurity could slow down the progress of IoMT, we’re on board for robust security standards on technology that could help patients rest easier. The reward of a successful IoMT implementation is much more impactful when the promise of strong security stands behind it.

What do you make of the future of IoT in healthcare? Is it the right dose of innovation that medicine needs right now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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