IOT improves healthcare

By Georg Tichy


Healthcare stakeholders are searching for ways to apply Big Data to drug development. Until recently, clinical trials were the primary method of collecting data and measuring whether a drug worked well and was safe. But the recent digitization of health records and healthcare claims has sparked new ideas about which data is relevant when evaluating drugs, including real-world evidence.

Real-world evidence is data from patients’ experience with a drug, outside of research settings. Pharmaceutical companies, regulatory authorities, and insurance companies are determining how this data will affect recommendations for prescribing drugs.

If you stay current with technology news, you have certainly heard of the Internet of Things. If not, in a nutshell, the term essentially refers to any item or the capability of any item to be equipped with a sensor (e.g. in healthcare). This sensor would be able to collect data, and send it to another sensor or databank, and also be capable of taking action based on data recorded.

As far as healthcare is concerned, the IoT is not being utilized anywhere near its potential. There are devices and monitors in use now, but they are primarily personal use items such as fitness trackers and such.

There are an infinite number of uses for IoT in healthcare. There is the potential to improve patient care, facilitate research, streamline physician workloads, and from the administrative end of healthcare, save large amounts of time and money.

Any device that monitors a patient can be fitted with sensors. Sleep apnea machines, pacemakers, oxygen concentrators, and glucose monitors can all be equipped with sensors that would enable data to not only be collected but also interpreted and prompt the device to take appropriate action. For example, if a patient is on oxygen and suddenly requires an increase in O2 due to falling sat levels, the sensors in the concentrator can alert the physician and/or emergency personnel. It is estimated that hospital readmissions could be reduced as much as 67% using technology such as this.

Even equipment that does not normally monitor or measure stats can be adapted to do so. Imagine a hospital bed that monitors patients during sleep, providing sleep apnea data or measuring heart rates and pulse ox readings. Better yet, in the hospital setting, the bed, or possibly the patient’s id bracelet, would allow hospital staff at any given time to locate a patient’s whereabouts.

From a strictly administrative perspective, medical equipment could monitor inventory levels of required supplies and place an order. This is huge in terms of hospital costs. The man hours required maintaining and ordering inventory would be significant. Also, it would eliminate the habit of hospitals of overstocking supplies due to the fear of running out unexpectedly.

Healthcare always appears to be the one industry that consistently lags behind all others. If electronic medical records and data were ever streamlined into a universally accessible system, the impact of the IoT and its data would be immeasurable. Allow your imagination run away with the incredible possibilities. For example, how great would it be to have your prescription bottle notify the pharmacy you have just taken the last pill and a refill is required? This is not fantasy, this is sure to be a reality in the near future.

Whatever the case, we are sure to see an explosion of growth in this sector and the availability of the IoT in an increasing number of devices.

The newest crop of medical devices won’t work solely by performing an action on the human body. Some of them will also work on the mind. Case in point is Chrono Therapeutics, a medical technology startup that has developed a new twist on an old approach to smoking cessation. The company is pairing conventional wearable technology with a mobile app that has the smarts to deliver a double-barreled approach to accomplish a key element of smoking cessation – behavior modification. The Hayward, Calif-based company’s idea has won over both the healthcare and investment communities, who have joined to commit $47.6 million in venture capital funding.

The Series B round of investment brought on lead investor Kaiser Permanente Ventures, along with a lengthy list of venture capital firms. Including the Chrono’s earlier Series A round, the company has raised about $80 million total, the Wall Street Journal reported. So what’s got investors so excited? For one, it’s a huge market. More than 480,000 American die from smoking, and more Americans are addicted to nicotine than any other drug, the Journal explains, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Though nicotine patches are a well established therapy for smoking cessation a lot of people fall through the cracks. That leaves an opportunity for new medical technology.

Chrono’s technology includes a wearable sensor on the skin programmed to deliver nicotine when smokers feel their strongest cravings. Unlike the standard nicotine patch, which delivers nicotine continuously throughout the day and wanes by day’s end, Chrono’s nicotine delivery matches the peaks and valleys of craving throughout the day, explains MobiHealthNews. Besides the timed delivery, the device includes an interactive app that keeps users engaged with their smoking cessation programs. It’s another way to fight cravings.

Chrono, which has been researching and developing its technology for the last two years, says it will need to run additional clinical trials before it files for marketing clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. That filing could come by 2018. But when it does reach the market, Chrono pledges it will be an over the counter product, which means that it will be more widely available to more of the people that need it. The company also tells MobiHealthNews that it is exploring arrangements to make the device a benefit in employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

Smoking cessation is a huge market, but Chrono has learned enough about timed drug delivery to realize that it’s just a starting point. The company tells MobiHealthNews that its technology could eventually find use delivering medications treating opioid addiction, pain management, and Parkinson’s disease. That makes the Chrono device a platform technology upon which the company can launch a wide multiple smart and interactive drug delivery devices addressing a wide range of conditions.

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