Internet of Things (IoT): A game changer for the healthcare industry?

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Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

The Internet of Things (IoT) could be a game changer for the healthcare industry. It is transforming the industry by increasing efficiency, lowering costs and putting the focus back on better patient care. Could IoT be the driver for reimagining and revolutionizing patient care?

Valued at $211 billion by 2020, the Healthcare IoT market is predicted to save billions of dollar for patients and the medical industry. Asia Pacific is expected to register lucrative growth over the forecast period with a CAGR of over 31%. China, as an emerging market fraught with overcrowded hospitals, has begun experimenting with IoT applications in the healthcare field by receiving payments and test results, and communication between doctors and patients through mobile platforms.  

Penetration of IoT technology allows sensors to continuously monitor patients in a remote location suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or dementia. Patients will no longer have to be transferred to different facilities to receive treatment as portable machines placed in their homes will monitor their conditions and transmit the information to care providers in real time. Further, the medical device’s ability to capture information alerts clinicians on critical issues, e.g.  pulse irregularities prior to a heart attack. Smart pill dispensers ensure that patients adhere to their recommended drug dosages according to their drug schedule.

The hospital setting is the perfect microcosm of IoT where mistakes and downtime are detrimental to people’s wellbeing and efficiency is key to preventing overworked staff. Despite this great opportunity, the industry has been slow to adopt IoT technology due to slow changing regulations pertaining to medical equipment and intense bureaucracy. As the population increasingly turns towards the trend of utilizing wearables and sensors, a door opens up for the industry to embrace the power of IoT in healthcare management by piggybacking on current capabilities including pulse and fitness trackers, and a glucometer.

The partnership between the IoT and healthcare technologies has dramatically changed medicine for the better. Major advancements in areas such as remote patient monitoring, wearable technology, and electronic information exchange, and the industry is poised to welcome a number of new technologies, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Those with elders living independently can now have peace of mind following a full technological integration between two leading living solutions firms. Verklizan’s emergency call center management platform and Essence’s Care@HomeTM platform for elderly health monitoring comprises of a comprehensive system of behavioral monitoring and social alarms to alert family members of any deviations from the elder’s routine as well as a Voice Panic Detector that recognizes signs of distress in their voice and subsequently alerts emergency response.
  • Leiden University Medical Center developed a system utilizing an IoT platform from Illinois-based Zebra Technologies for the first commercial deployment of a time tracking system for acute myocardial infarction patients. Mitigation of a blocked coronary artery is a time-critical operation contingent on accurate, real-time tracking and feedback from the start of the heart attack to when the blockage is removed to reduce the door-to-balloon time.
  • Royal Philips has just signed an agreement with software company, Pegasystems to deliver cutting edge systems to improve the connectivity and efficacy of medical devices. Philips HealthSuite Cloud platform and Pega Care Management Application will collaborate in efforts to allow caregivers to remotely manage and identify potential health issues and intervene before they become critical. Additionally, Philip’s Cloud platform’s ecosystem provides connectivity to millions of health devices to allow predictive analytics and easy access to patient data.
  • Security and privacy, especially when dealing with sensitive health related data, remains the main deterrent to IoT adoption. Ethical concerns also crop up when dealing with the issue of continually monitoring individuals as well as professionals and patients believing the technology to be too complicated to incorporate and utilize competently.

Source: Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), Singapore.

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (www.sciglo.com); -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo (www.sciglo.com) and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.