The Internet of Things refers to any item or the capability of any item to be equipped with a sensor. 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 and especially residential homecare 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.
Healthcare always appears to be the one industry that consistently lags behind all others. 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? Whatever the case, we are sure to see an exponential growth in this sector and the availability of the IoT in an increasing number of devices.
A 2003 study by the World Health Organization revealed that 50 percent of medicines aren’t taken as directed. So Proteus Digital Health decided to join the growing roster of companies involved in IoT-linked healthcare, aiming to reduce the number of non-compliant individuals by adding ingestible sensors to medicines and medical devices.
Roche recently came out with a Bluetooth-powered self-testing monitor that tracks patients receiving treatment or are at high risk for such coagulant-related conditions as stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism to check for signs of clotting, which should reduce the overall number of office visits. And the cloud research firm Medidata has partnered up with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to introduce a tracking system to monitor people being treated for multiple myeloma.
Contact lens are also being affected by this new technology, where non-invasive sensors are placed inside contacts, which doctors hope will help people suffering from presbyopia. Scientists also believe they will help detect diabetes by testing glucose levels in the tears. Another IoT-connected technology created for diabetics is the Open Artificial Pancreas System (OpenAPS), designed to monitor and equalize a diabetic’s blood glucose level. IoT is also being used to help track and treat such conditions as depression, Parkinson’s and arthritis.
Wearable products with medical applications are finding their way to the market. The progress of wearable technology in a relatively short period of time is paving the way for a future where wearables play a major role in health care.
Heart monitoring is an example of a medical need well-suited to wearable technology. Heart monitors in hospitals are not portable. While portable monitors exist, these monitors are big, bulky, and uncomfortable. In recent years, startup companies have developed smaller heart monitors that are durable and wearable. IRhythm Technologies developed a water-resistant wearable sensor called the ZIO patch. This patch can be worn for two weeks, offering the advantage of continuous monitoring with minimal interference in a patient’s daily life, Medgadget explains.
Wearable medical devices are becoming even smaller and more wearable than adhesive patches. The BioStamp Research Connect System is an even thinner patch that has the capability to measure a wide range of data, such as the range of motion of a joint, which can be an indication of recovery from injury. The evolution of wearables to a thin, flexible patch such as the BioStamp is the result of new circuitry available in thin, flexible printed circuit boards, Modern Healthcare explains.
Beyond the technological advances driving wearable technologies in health care, health policy is also nudging the market toward adoption of wearables. One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act links healthcare reimbursement to the ability of healthcare providers to show the value of their care, and the ability to keep patients healthy. That means that hospitals will need to improve the way they diagnose, treat, and monitor patients, according to Reuters. One way to achieve those goals is to employ wearable technologies. Julie Ranck, a healthcare consultant, tells Reuters that she expects that more wearable devices will be developed for chronic conditions in coming years because monitoring will be the best way for healthcare providers to obtain the data necessary to show whether or not their treatments are improving chronic conditions.
The FDA recognizes the sea change in the capabilities and medical applications of wearable technologies. The agency opened draft guidance on wearable technologies, which differentiated between “low-risk” wellness devices, such as smart watches and fitness trackers, and wearable devices used for diagnosing a medical condition. That distinction clarified the blurred lines that had held back some device makers from pursuing innovative new products and cleared the path for medical device developers to pursue new products with a little more regulatory certainty. Wearable technology is already here. But as far as we’ve come, we’re just scratching the surface of what the technology will bring to healthcare.
IOT could significantly improve the way of how residential homecare and healthcare in general is done nowadays. These tools will make it easier to monitor and assess the situation at home or in hospital. While this will be a big relief for all persons who have to take care of someone at home, it has to be said, that you have care about privacy also. Contact us to get more information.