IoT in Healthcare: the Complete Guide
Articles - 12 min read

IoT in Healthcare: the Complete Guide

Doctors review medical data on a tablet.
IoT technology can be used to solve pain points, improve patient care and drive greater efficiency in the healthcare industry. Read the guide below to learn about how the Internet of Things is transforming healthcare as we know it.

How does IoT apply to the healthcare industry?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the billions of devices globally that are connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. In healthcare -- the applications are many -- from wearable health devices to location-tracking of patients and medical equipment, and even smart medication dispensers.
Healthcare is a complicated, heavily regulated industry that is slowly edging toward a change, emphasizing patient experience as a central aspect of care. And this is primarily achieved through modernizing inefficient legacy healthcare systems.
"There will be a decentralized and dephysicalized approach to healthcare – rather than one-size-fits-all, it will be personalized and, rather than provider-focused, it will be people-powered… IoT will be at the foundation of making it happen."
Gloria Zaionz, Tech Guru, Innovation Learning Network

While the pandemic has put an incredible strain on healthcare resources and exposed some of the industry's inefficiencies in the process -- it may also provide the impetus for more rapid, widespread adoption of IoT technology to fast-track this healthcare revolution.
Why? Like in so many other sectors, IoT has the potential to transform healthcare -- allowing for more efficient distribution of scarce resources, providing remote patients with better access to care, and achieving better overall outcomes through the promotion of well-being and prevention.

The IoT healthcare market today

Gartner predicts that IoT spending by healthcare providers will grow from USD 21 billion in 2019 to $54 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 10%. The main drivers of growth include:
  • an increasing need for in-home chronic condition monitoring,
  • the need for care in rural areas,
  • the aging population, and
  • the decreasing costs of LPWAN technology.
In a recent Gartner survey of enterprise IT decision-makers at healthcare organizations, 86% of respondents reported having an IoT infrastructure in place for most business lines, and 79% of organizations with revenues of over $100 million were already using IoT in their production processes.
In addition, healthcare organization’s IoT budgets are predicted to increase by over 13% on average in the coming year, indicating a growing confidence in IoT technologies.

Top healthcare IoT-powered applications and devices

Let’s look at some of the top connected medical devices and healthcare applications leveraging IoT technology today.

Smart wearables

Fitness trackers and smartwatches are the IoT-powered wearables you’ll hear about most often. But, wearable medical devices can now perform an incredibly robust set of functions to monitor patients’ health remotely without the need for physical visits.
Most often implemented in bracelets, watches, or bands, these trackers can collect a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, monitor asthma, and even track sleep and activity habits. For example -- QardioCore is a wearable ECG monitor that allows users to track their data via their smartphone and share it automatically with their doctor. Zanthion is another innovative example -- a medical alert system worn by patients often as a piece of jewelry, which proactively alerts caregivers based on criteria, i.e., change in temperature, indications of a fall, or extended periods of inactivity.

Hospital Asset Tracking

Asset tracking is a major application of IoT across many industries. In a hospital environment, physical assets can include medical equipment, supplies, infrastructure, and even human resources like physicians or nurses. Inefficient asset tracking can mean wasted time searching for supplies, longer waiting times for patients, and a short supply of vital medicine and other equipment.
RFID tags and sensors can help providers track and monitor the location, temperature, or utilization of hospital assets. For example, CenTrak delivers real-time location and condition updates about critical resources, capturing interactions between equipment, patients, and staff in seconds. And, New York’s Mt Sinai Hospital reduced emergency room wait times by 50% by installing GE Healthcare’s AutoBed platform to more efficiently manage hospital beds.

Medical equipment monitoring

Monitoring connected medical equipment is a surefire way for hospitals to reduce their costs. First, through the avoidance of theft, and second through predictive maintenance. By tracking the health and performance of expensive medical equipment, organizations can predict problems before they occur -- avoiding unnecessary, costly downtime.
Philips e-Alert is a great example, providing proactive monitoring of imaging systems, like MRI machines. Through the use of sensors, a-Alert measures environmental factors against predefined thresholds, triggering real-time alerts via multiple channels so that service engineers can take action before problems escalate.

Smart medical devices

Like wearable devices, connected medical devices can collect and transmit medical information directly to a doctor for remote diagnosis or prevention. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is most often used with patients living in rural areas, the chronically ill and elderly -- allowing physicians to closely monitor a patient’s medical condition in real-time without the need to be physically present.
Philips Medication Adherence Solutions aim to relieve the burden of medication non-adherence, reducing avoidable hospitalizations and ER visits through smart-pill dispensing devices. Dispensers automatically pre-fill with the correct dosage required, then notify patients and caregivers when it’s time to take the medicine or if a dosage has been missed.
Beddit Sleep Monitors are another great example -- tackling wellness with a good night's sleep. Hidden under a sheet, these devices monitor breathing, heart rate, snoring, and even environmental changes to help users better manage their own sleep.

The benefits of IoT in healthcare

IoT technology is enabling a new wave of game-changing applications and services that will completely change the face of healthcare as we know it. While there are risks, provided they are well-managed the advantages of IoT in healthcare are life-changing.

Enhanced preventative medicine

An aging population and a social distancing mandate have put a strain on already stretched provider systems. Globally, there’s a growing demand for healthcare providers to offer more personalized and preventative forms of patient care.
Connected medical devices and wearables collect far more information about a patient’s health than ever before. Data is collected in real-time and can be shared with both caregivers and patients to provide a more complete and accurate picture of a patient’s overall health.
This, combined with predictive analytics, can be used to inform proactive treatment plans which prevent health problems from ever occurring and in doing so, significantly reduce the burden on overtaxed healthcare systems.

Improved access to care via RPM and telehealth

Given the current social distancing mandate, it will come as no surprise that demand for Remote Patient Monitoring, telemedicine, and telehealth solutions is soaring. However -- demand for remote healthcare services actually goes beyond the pandemic to a number of other contributing factors. The number of chronic conditions is increasing, the population is aging, and the need for care in underserved rural communities is growing.
IoT-powered remote monitoring solutions go some way to solving this problem, opening up access to care to those who need it most and allowing healthcare providers to better utilize their human resources.

Better medication adherence

Medication non-adherence places an incredible burden on healthcare systems globally. In the US alone, it’s thought to result in around 100,000 preventable deaths every year, and according to the NCPA it contributes approximately $290 billion dollars each year in added costs to the healthcare system.
Remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and smart medication dispensers -- combined with automated communications -- have the power to drastically reduce medication non-adherence. This means fewer preventable deaths, fewer avoidable hospitalizations and ER visits, and reduced costs.

Improved resource utilization and cost reduction

Through smart asset tracking and management, and medical equipment monitoring, healthcare organizations can actually deliver better patient experiences while reducing their own costs. Added benefits include:
  • Better asset utilization
  • More accurate forecasting and ordering
  • Workflow optimization and faster response times
  • Decreased waiting times for patients
The benefits of IoT technology in healthcare are tangible. However, care should be taken in implementing any IoT solution -- particularly to guarantee the security of patient data and ensure seamless integration.

3 Questions Healthcare Organizations Should Ask a Potential IoT Connectivity Provider

According to a recent Syniverse report, the top four barriers to successful IoT adoption relate to security, integration, and network reliability.

Can you support private LTE networks?

Security is the number one barrier to IoT adoption across the board, and the healthcare industry is no exception. For healthcare organizations dealing with sensitive patient data, safeguarding that data is paramount. 86% of enterprises using IoT report that their IoT deployments have been delayed or constrained by security concerns and 50% cite security as their biggest challenge to successful IoT implementation.
Private LTE networks can effectively address these security concerns, bypassing the inherent risks of the public internet with secure, private connections. This makes private LTE networks the smart choice for healthcare organizations wanting to implement IoT with enhanced end-to-end security.

Do you offer network redundancy and control?

Organizations today expect wireless coverage across hundreds of carriers, and automatic carrier switching as standard. This gives network redundancy and seamless mobility, while at the same time removing the complexities of managing hundreds of carriers.
The challenge for healthcare organizations is that some providers use automatic carrier switching as a way to reduce their own costs, preferencing low-cost networks at the expense of quality. It’s important to ask your provider whether you can control the networks your IoT SIM preferences and whether this can be updated in real-time via over-the-air updates.

Can I configure and manage SIM cards via API?

It’s incredibly important that your IoT connectivity provider reduces the complexity of integration so that your developers can focus on building the most robust user experience. In order to ensure your integration experience is seamless, providers should offer:
  • an easy-to-use portal to order, configure and track IoT SIM activity in real-time,
  • detailed data for granular insight into SIM usage and behavior, and
  • full programmatic configurability via API.

To learn more about how Telnyx can help healthcare organizations implement IoT solutions with enterprise-level security, get in touch with one of our experts.
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