Health care and technology are always together as humans strive to improve the quality of life, as well as their efforts to prevent and monitor diseases.
The entry of IoT aims to do that: making health services accessible, tappable, and even wearable. Of course, IoT’s foray in healthcare is not unmet with challenges and even risks as privacy and cost of implementation loom.
Disease, aging, and death are facts of life.
No one can avoid them, but there may be ways to alleviate and improve health conditions through proper care and case management. The work of telemedicine is to spread health care far and wide, including people living in remote areas, juggling with child care or career, and struggling with stigma.
IoT, or the Internet of Things, takes accessibility to the next level with the integration of physical devices and software solutions to deliver health-care services.
There can be more systems underlying this breakthrough that is also called the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
The health-centered IoT is expected to expand $135 billion by 2025 amid rising medical costs. Medical expenses accounted for 8 percent of the total household budget in the US in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What does IoT have in store for you? Find out here.
–Health-Care IoT in Action
IoT transforms everyday objects into useful pieces of equipment for health and wellness. They can also take the form of medical devices configured to collect data that is critical for proper patient monitoring, assessment, and treatment.
Examples are the following:
- Fitness watches, wrist bands, or rings do more than count steps. They can monitor heart rate, sleep, and in some instances, depression levels.
- Ingestible sensors are the size of pills made of biocompatible materials. They monitor your gut for, say, any signs of gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Smart inhalers measure patient inhalation airflow that affects the efficacy of the drug in treating asthma, COPD, and more. The devices collect this data to improve the usage and remind users to take their medication.
IoT has broadened the use of sensors, cameras, and other technologies beyond medical facilities and into private homes. Relatedly, medical supplies, especially those wearable parts and pieces, are becoming accessible to individual users. For example, if you have an oximeter at home, you can shop from this collection of Spo2 sensors online.
This technology-based health care is advantageous to providers and patients for these reasons.
-Real-Time Monitoring and Assistance
Connected devices collect vital information such as heart rate and blood pressure, which can be transmitted to physicians for real-time monitoring and observation. These live updates are particularly helpful for people with life-threatening conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Doctors can provide treatments as needed and study the data to develop an accurate intervention.
Patients or their family members can tap a mobile app that lets them contact a specialist in case of emergencies. This app can provide the doctor with the necessary medical information to mitigate the situation before the patient is rushed to the hospital. Medics are also more informed on the patient’s condition.
-Convenient and Centered on Patients
The use of connected devices has cut down the need for in-person visits and follow-up checkups. With your smartphone or laptop, you can book a doctor’s appointment online and meet your doctor via videoconference.
This patient-centered care gives people more flexibility while still managing their health through wearables or other IoT devices. Doctors, on the other hand, can rely on data generated from the tools to create better outcomes for their patients.
-Research and Analysis
IoT devices collect raw data from patients and analyze them. Health-care providers and practitioners now have access to comprehensive reports with insights and trends.
Data gleaned from IoT devices can also contribute to medical research that can result in ground-breaking discoveries and a better understanding of health and mortality.
–Challenges Facing the Internet of Medical Things
IoT’s involvement in health care, which is projected to gain traction in the years to come, is not without concerns and cost.
-Privacy and Security
The lines between public and private become even more blurred when one wears or uses an IoT-connected device. It tracks and transmits data that can raise issues of control, consent, and transparency. Already, there is a clamor for policies that give individuals leverage on what information of theirs is collected, how long it is stored, and where it goes afterward.
US-based health-care providers must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The regulation requires such entities to use compliant software and device to protect the confidentiality of medical records from cyberattacks and data breaches.
The September 2019 issue of the HIPAA Journal cites a survey saying that 82 percent of health-care providers who have used IoT devices have experienced a cyberattack on their devices in the past 12 months.
-The Cost of Integration
Connected devices are powered by different protocols that are further peeled into many layers. For example, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 2G/3G represent one kind of layer, which is communication.
The challenge of health-care providers is to unify these devices in one setting. Hospitals and clinics may have to revamp their current infrastructure and digitize their setup, especially the records. They may also have to hire additional personnel to oversee the transition and integration of IoT and ensure HIPAA compliance.
On the side of manufacturers, they have to fortify the security of their devices.
-Big Data Issues
IoT is about data, whose value is best realized when processed into trends, patterns, and correlations. This is the work of big data analytics that can employ machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, and data mining.
Analyzing IoT data requires putting together these resources:
- Physical media to store data, such as solid-state disks
- Fast and reliable internet connection to handle big-data transfers
- Professionals like data scientists to analyze data
Setting up and maintaining this big data infrastructure add to the cost of IoT.
–The Future of IoT in Health Care
As it is, IoT is expanding in the health and wellness department. You can only hold your breath and prepare to be blown away by how accessible and flexible health care will be in the days to come.
For now, you can sit in front of your computer and wait for your doctor’s appointment based on the readings of the sensors. You can hook up your laptop to the HDMI monitor for a crisp display. Consider this multiport adapter for your 4K needs, as well as other plug-and-play IoT devices.
Stay tuned for more updates.