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IoT and Its Application in Healthcare

Technology

Nov 15, 2021 - 5 minute read

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Rafał Imielski Content Marketing Specialist

He has two years’ experience in copywriting, translation and proofreading. His goal is to help people communicate in a concise and understandable way. Rafał is an archaeology graduate who’s fascinated by both prehistoric and modern technologies. 

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Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that has been picking up steam in multiple areas of our lives. Every day, people use a number of devices that are connected to the web, to local networks and connected to each other – often collecting all kinds of data. Healthcare is benefitting immensely from this technology as it can give the doctors and caretakers a more comprehensive and holistic view of the patient’s health and habits as well as enabling care across distances, even in the patients’ own homes.

Medical IoT can vastly improve the standards of care. By gathering data from multiple sources, and various sensors, it is possible to track and monitor patients – both in terms of vital signs (e.g. Blood Pressure) and also in terms of things such as movement (e.g. motion sensors) and bringing it all together and cross-referencing it, healthcare providers will be able to treat patients more effectively.

Bear in mind that it’s an introductory article that aims to showcase the potential of medical IoT at a general level. The subject of this technology and its use in the healthcare domain can be explored much more exhaustively.

What are the Components of IoT in Healthcare?

Internet of Things requires an interconnected network of devices that collect data and feed it into a system. By definition, it utilises many of the tools leveraged for another innovative healthcare technology — remote patient monitoring. At times, these two areas can be difficult to separate, as they are both emerging at the same time and use similar tools to revolutionise medicine.

IoT medical sensors enable healthcare professionals to intervene earlier than certain symptoms would be normally reported. A doctor will be able to notice a deterioration of the patient’s condition before the person even feels that there is something that needs to be addressed.

There already are multiple types of sensors that can be included in the Internet of Medical Things, and new ones are steadily being introduced. Smartphones and various wearables can also contribute to the process of data collection. Examples of patient data that can be gathered in real time include:

  • glucose level
  • blood pressure
  • body temperature
  • heart rate

These metrics are some of the best indicators of the patient’s well-being and they’re available to doctors and caretakers in real-time.

How IoT Changes the Medical Sector

In addition to improving the quality of care for individual patients, the IoT technology can contribute to even more positive changes. The amount of collected data, combined with Electronic Health Records, Machine Learning and other healthcare digital solutions, can generate possibilities that were never available before. All these technologies used together could improve diagnostics, especially in the case of diseases that are difficult to detect otherwise, such as heart arrhythmia or diabetic retinopathy.

The real-time data availability can also help with tracking the spread of diseases and locating the most affected areas. This technology has been used across the globe as a means of combating the COVID-19 pandemic. With the use of connected thermometers, it’s possible to determine the regions where the most people have an increased body temperature. This allowed for locating areas that are the most affected by the coronavirus.

Smart medication dispensers are another element of medical IoT. For example, they can remind patients to take the pills they need at the right time. Additionally, they can inform healthcare professionals about the patients who forget about their medication and the ones that overuse it. A similar idea is used in the automated insulin pumps that measure patients’ glucose levels and administer the right doses whenever they’re needed.

This technology can also be lifesaving for elderly people who live alone. The devices can detect a sudden collapse and notify healthcare workers. They can also learn the user’s habits and behaviour patterns and detect unexpected changes. For example, they can send someone to check in on the patient when there’s a prolonged lack of mobility or another worrying situation. The fact that patients can be monitored and receive professional help without having to be hospitalised also reduces costs for the medical institutions and patients.

Of course, devices don’t have to be designed specifically for healthcare in order to be considered a part of medical IoT. There are plenty of health-related smartphone apps — most of them are designed as a tool for the user to track their own health or to remind them about exercise, but they can also feed valuable information to healthcare institutions. The same goes for casual wearables like smartwatches and smartbands that can collect crucial data about the user’s health at all times. Other examples include wearable monitors to support factory workers to use correct posture when bending or lifting objects, as well as tracking them to guide them to the correct part of the warehouse, for example.

In short, the most substantial benefits of IoT in healthcare include:

  • Quicker and more accurate diagnostics,
  • Improved patient experience,
  • Reduced risk of misdiagnosis,
  • Lower costs of care
  • More comprehensive knowledge of diseases.

As we showcased, the IoT technology is able to impact multiple areas of healthcare and push the entire domain forward. The long-term benefits for both the patients and care providers will be immense as the IoT’s potential gets more and more realised over time.

Conclusion

We have already established that the amount of available health data is immense, and there are plenty of sensors as well as other devices capable of collecting it. One of the challenges that medical IoT has to solve is finding a safe and efficient way to utilise and cross-reference this vast volume of data to provide patients with the best help.

When thinking about medical IoT, people often worry about privacy and security. Medical data is one of the most sensitive types of personal information. It’s understandable for patients to be extra careful when it comes to who can access their data and how it’s protected. However, proper testing and following the latest security standards should be enough to keep the information safe. It’s key that the security aspect is considered at the very beginning, during the early design stages.

Luckily, these are just minor obstacles that technology companies can easily overcome. The benefits of the IoMT technology heavily outweigh the efforts required to make it secure and efficient. It can improve patient care by giving the doctors a more complete, unbiased overview of all the symptoms and the patient’s condition, allowing the practitioners to react quicker and more accurately. It can also push medicine forward by collecting unparalleled volumes of patient data that can be cross-referenced and analysed to produce valuable insights.

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Rafał Imielski Content Marketing Specialist

He has two years’ experience in copywriting, translation and proofreading. His goal is to help people communicate in a concise and understandable way. Rafał is an archaeology graduate who’s fascinated by both prehistoric and modern technologies. 

See all Rafał's posts

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