IOT (The Internet of Things) is the termed used to describe the billions of physical devices connected to the internet. More precisely, IOT refers to the collection and sharing of these devices' data with each other. The Internet of Things has become popular because it is focused on using these new technical capabilities to solve problems. In short, solving problems with real-time data collection, automation, intelligence, and physical devices.
One of the largest industries for IOT solutions is healthcare. Healthcare requires the interplay of many people, lots of medical equipment, and a tremendous amount of data. The IOT field is developing solutions to make better sense of this healthcare data, and then empowering devices and people to act on these new insights!
Below we'll cover the most innovative and talked about IOT innovations happening in 2020. Our list is broken down into two main categories:IOT Applications in Healthcare - wide-reaching capabilities of IOT that can be used across disciplines, sectors, or treatment efforts.
Symptom tracking and treatment is probably the farthest reaching innovation on the list. There are a number of new IOT solutions that help doctors and patients communicate without needing in-person visits. The ability for remote patient monitoring allows patients to get better treatment and save money.
Clinical trials have shown that remote symptom monitoring improved both patient outcomes and experience versus patients who had routine in-person visits. Besides simplifying data collection and transmission between patient and doctor, symptom monitoring can allow for real-time adjustments to treatment.
Most IOT innovations for symptom monitoring include Bluetooth devices that sync up with patients phone and then stream data to a program used by the provider. Since patient data is streamed in real-time, doctors have a better chance of identifying emerging side effects before they become an issue. As the programs that analyze patient data become smarter, patients can receive higher quality care in a more timely manner.
Medicine adherence is centered on tracking and making sure patients are taking their medications. A lot of the technologies involved work similarly to those mentioned in symptom tracking, but instead they send updates when patients take their medicine.
The ability to remotely check on patient's adherence allows doctor's to act more proactively. If a doctor or healthcare professional sees a drop off of in a patient's adherence, they can reach out earlier on. Before this technology, patients would come back in after symptoms re-emerged due to lack of medication.
One area that prescription adherence is vitally important is in mental health. If patient's with psychosis or clinical depression stop taking their medicines, serious implications can occur. When clinical mental health patients stop taking medication their symptoms come back with more intensity. The good news is that it takes some time for patients' symptoms to fully come back after coming off medication, so catching an early lapse can make a huge impact!
When walking in a hospital or healthcare clinic you are met with an array of medical equipment, hardware, and other technologies. IOT innovations are helping healthcare operations better track, record, and plan for equipment upgrades. As hospital hardware becomes more connected, staff will be able to better locate and distribute their equipment.
Besides simply being able to find and prevent equipment from being stolen, IOT can help managers make better operational decisions. Devices can tell staff when they need to be serviced or replaced. This gives staff more flexibility to plan and budget for necessary upgrades.
Ingestible what? Ingestible sensors are exactly what they sound like, sensors you consume. These sensors work through the combined effort of 3 items: a small pill, a worn sensor, and a phone. Patients swallow a small pill that dissolves in their stomach. The pill contains a mix of bacteria, minerals, and a small circuit.
Scientists have coded the circuit to send a signal based on the bacteria's reaction to substances in the stomach. The signal it sends is very rudimentary and weak, but a small sensor worn by patients turns this information into intelligent data. The sensor makes sense of the pills signal, and then sends information to an cloud-based application.
A major use of indigestible sensors is for automatic medical adherence data. Rather than relying on patients to input reliable data, healthcare professionals can track if patients are taking prescriptions physiologically. This IOT innovation is one method to give accurate data where before the only source was patients' verbal reports.
Automated treatments require analyzing real-time data, and then giving remote administration. IOT sensors and devices can be used to track patient's physiological data. The sensors are looking for changes related to a patient's symptoms or condition. If the analysis of this data detects that a patient is in need of their treatment or medication the sensor can be signaled to give it.
Imagine a diabetic patient wearing one of these sensors. The sensor would be checking on the patient's blood glucose levels, and then could automatically administer insulin if the patient falls into a certain threshold.
IOT innovations related to hygiene are designed to encourage better hygiene and to stop the spread of disease. Smart hygiene stations can be used to encourage and track staff cleanliness. They can also be used to prevent healthcare professionals from interacting with a patient without washing their hands.
By tracking the hygiene station's use teams can prevent access to rooms until hands are cleaned. This benefits patients with weaker immune systems. Also it helps to prevent the spread of disease from staff who go from patient to patient without washing their hands first.
Medical waste is an unseen issue to many on the outside of healthcare. However, properly handling and disposing of medical waste is extremely important. If this waste is not dealt with properly it can lead to the spread of disease and infection. IOT innovations are emerging to help automate this problem in an efficient way.
One solution is to equipped waste bins with sensors to let staff know when to empty them. However, a more cutting edge solution is to automate this process. Waste bins equipped with sensors can alert robots or other automated machines to empty the bins at a certain threshold. Therefore, problems related to medical waste can be managed proactively and without human intervention.
While everyone may not want to get their body scanned, the benefit may outweigh the hesitation. Body scans are likely to become the main way healthcare professionals track body change. Currently, doctors and nurses use scales for weight and measures for height. However with a quick body scan, doctors can get both of these measures and then some.
Besides an accurate reading on patients' weight and height, body scans can measure body fat and abnormalities. Body fat may give better indications of health and patient fluctuations. By focusing on fat rather than weight, patients can get a better idea of their actual health.
A lot of the IOT innovations mentioned above, work to track or administer prescriptions and treatments. So, how is IOT improving the production and delivery of these drugs? IOT is being used to more accurately track drugs' quality and specifications. The main goal of these current efforts is to prevent giving the wrong drugs and to ensure quality.
By tagging each drug made with a unique ID, professionals and patients can go back and check on the drug's supply chain. The IDs can give information on how the drugs were produced, who they were produced by, and what they were produced with. This information is tracked to help patients get better quality treatments, and for healthcare operations to make more informed decisions.
Smart Labs will continue to have a large impact on healthcare. At its core, a Smart Lab is comprised of lab equipment capable of tracking and transmitting data. Capturing accurate lab data allows this information to be shared across disciplines. Researchers and healthcare professionals can have more efficient avenues to share and join data.
Additionally, Smart Labs allow for lab hardware to be controlled and make alerts remotely. Receiving alerts about equipment failure can prevent the loss of invaluable product and materials. Besides protecting the cost of lost samples, Smart Labs save health systems money by notifying administrators of needed maintenance and other predictions to help act proactively.
These new avenues of information, prediction, and collaboration will continue to lead to new breakthroughs in healthcare. The result is better care and new solutions. IOT innovations can help shift our healthcare model from reacting to symptoms to proactively preventing them.
Continue reading below to see examples of specific medical conditions being solved with the Internet of Things.
Diabetes has received a large number of innovations from the IOT field. IOT and diabetes fit well together due to the need of continual monitoring and the serious ramifications of missing treatment. Continuous glucose monitoring helps patients by automatically tracking their blood levels. This information can then sync up to users' phones to provide alerts and keep a permanent history.
Another implementation of this technology is smart insulin pens. Pens like Gocap can automatically record the time of insulin administration, as well as the amount given. Besides providing an easy way to record this information, these systems can also recommend when to administer insulin based on past data.
Lastly the most innovative tool for diabetics, automatic insulin delivery. Smart insulin pumps are being used to not only gather real-time glucose data, but to administer insulin accordingly. In theory, these close-looped systems can automatically take care of most diabetics core concerns. This solution tracks, analyzes, and administers insulin automatically.
Even though Parkinson's symptoms are likely a daily occurrence, doctors can only observer patients in person. Sometimes this criteria for symptom checking can give an inaccurate portrayal of a patient's condition. To help give Parkinson's patients a better way track their symptoms, IOT researchers have been developing programs for smart watches. (ex. Apple Watch)
These smart watches can be used to automatically record and send information to patients and doctors. The watch is looking for real-time data about a patient's frequency and patterns of shakes and tremors. This data, besides giving a more accurate account of symptoms, also works to proactively notify caretakers of worsting symptoms. Adaptions of this technology may be used for things like arthritis or epilepsy.
Just like diabetes, IOT developers are trying to innovate equipment already used by most Asthma patients. The most powerful example of this are smart inhalers. Small sensors have been created that can not only record administration history, but give patients information on what may be causing their symptoms as well.
This information can be displayed to users for better prevention and understanding. These connected apps can also give information on allergens and other helpful tips for people with Asthma. Some evidence has shown that patients using smart inhalers are more likely to take their medication consistently.
Mental and Cognitive Health applications of IOT are largely centered around mood and cognition monitoring. Devices like a smart watch or phone can be used to send frequent symptom data to a patient's provider. Doctors can use this to act proactively, and reach out if they see a drop in data entries.
Most of the IOT innovations require the patient to fill out mood diaries or cognitive tests. However, it make sense that these updates should not be automatic, and require patient input. Although there is a chance of unreliable feedback from the patients, there have been studies that have shown these digital tests can be trusted.
In fact, some studies have even shown that these digital tests improve patient outcomes across the board. These IOT technologies can also be used to increase prescription adherence. Keeping adherence consistent is vitally important for clinical mental health patients.
IOT innovators have worked to pair contact lenses and smart sensors to improve various eye conditions. For example researchers have been developing a contact-based solution for presbyopia. Presbyopia is farsightedness cause by a loss of eye elasticity. Sensor-connected contacts are being created to help those with this condition regain better quality sight.
Another example of smart contacts are being used to treat glaucoma. The contact lenses are made to detect changes in the size of users' eyeballs. Detecting these changes give providers better insight into how symptoms are developing, so they can take more immediate precautions.
One last exciting example of an IOT innovation impacting eye conditions is through advanced tear monitoring. A major use case of tear monitoring is to detect glucose levels. People with diabetes may one day be notified of their glucose levels via their tears!
High levels of blood clotting can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and many other related conditions. Some IOT innovators have created solutions to help detect blood clotting via Bluetooth technologies. The sensors are meant to help detect when a patient's blood is beginning to clot in order to prevent more serious injuries from taking place.
Some consequences of preventing major blood clots include less brain strokes, bleeding problems, and paying for consistent blood clot tests. Preventing billed blood clot testing can be a major help to anti-coagulated patients. It can also help patients remember to test themselves if their systems are not automated.
One of the major issues that comes with taking care of Alzheimer's patients is that symptoms often cause the patient to get lost. Due to forgetfulness and disorientation of the condition, patients can take off to uncharted areas. Of course, this can be extremely dangerous. One IOT solution addressing this problem is the use of GPS soles.
Shoe soles have been created that have a small GPS device to track the wearer's location. The GPS data streams to an application watched by caretakers and loved ones. The device can also send notifications if the individuals goes outside a certain boundary. This device can truly be a life saver, and is likely to become widely used by caretakers.
This list has outlined a wide variety of applications and technologies that can improve healthcare. A lot of these ideas and projects are using early technologies to prove their ideas. As the IOT industry continues to develop, it will create better sensors and IOT devices. The emergence of these new tools will enable innovators to create even better solutions.
Healthcare is has a lot of room for improvement and growth. The good news is there are a lot of people working on solving current issues. Now that you have a better sense of what IOT in healthcare looks like, you can keep your eye out for new innovations. Use your knowledge to support good ideas and to encouraged continued action in this field.
Photos from Unsplash and Infographic vector created by fullvector