If technology is an important issue in healthcare, whether electronic medical records or even telemedicine , there’s a stealth aspect that will have a profound impact on every part of the industry. That is the Internet of Things, or IoT.
IoT is an emerging trend in all sorts of technologies. Small computers, often with wireless Internet access, are embedded in virtually any type of product: automobiles, jet planes, manufacturing equipment, or home electronics. Retail stores and warehouses will use IoT tags to help control inventory. Manufacturers add IoT devices to subassemblies to help track supply chains and to check on performance of equipment to make better design and engineering decisions in the future. Some market watchers expect $140 billion or more to be invested in IoT solutions, according to Business Insider.
Healthcare will find IoT applications important in many ways. Medical equipment in a hospital or clinic could be equipped with intelligent trackers that would help personnel find what they needed, when they needed it, saving time. Medical devices of all types, even something as seemingly simple as an IV stand, could provide notifications to professionals when it was time to take action or if measurements exceeded certain warning bounds. That could be true for equipment in a patient’s home, as well. Or even for a medical device in a patient’s body. Smartphones and smartwatches could also act as IoT devices, collecting medical data and sending it on to services or to care providers.
According to technology site ReadWrite, IoT is “transforming the healthcare industry completely by redefining how apps, devices and people interact and connect with each other in delivering healthcare solutions.” Inherent in the transformation are advantages that providers should be able to attain:
- Because monitoring can happen anywhere in real time, less time is needed for professionals to check data and, instead, can look at trends and make treatment decisions.
- Real-time information should give healthcare professionals better insight into patients’ conditions. The result will be better treatment outcomes.
- Because chronic conditions get real-time monitoring, disease management will improve.
- Errors happen in part when doctors, nurses, and technicians don’t have access to timely data about patients. Tracking changing conditions should provide better insight and help reduce errors.
- Better patient monitoring should also lead to real-time drug dosage adjustments as well as better tracking of drug supplies.
- Improved monitoring will also mean better patient experiences, as outcomes improve. Increased accuracy and active treatment, rather than reaction to sudden changes in conditions, will help engender higher trust.
In short, the industry has a chance to build relationships with patients, gain efficiency, improve outcomes, and save money.
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