2020-21 is the year we desperately grappled with the problems of a flawed health care system. Never before have we felt so urgently the need for efficient health care. A crucial piece in the puzzle is communication between doctors and their patients, which can be revolutionized by a blend of IoT and healthcare.
IoT stands for ‘Internet of Things. IoMT or Internet of Medical Things refers to a global network of connected devices that share data through medical monitors and software applications. In simple words, it is the application of technology to medical care. Let us look at how IoT in healthcare contributes to the health sector.
1. Remote patient monitoring
A central contribution of IoT health technology is devices that help doctors monitor their patients’ health outside the hospital or clinic. For example, one can monitor heart rate and blood pressure using wearable fitness bands and blood sugar using a glucometer.
Moreover, one can also use them to insert reminders about diet, exercise, and health check-up routines. These devices also alert physicians or family members when a patient is in a medical emergency. It is beneficial for people who struggle with living independently, e.g., older adults with Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Emergency patient care
People who need immediate medical attention cannot afford to lose time before finding a vacant space in a hospital. On the part of the hospital staff, they need to note down medical history and symptoms manually. As a result, doctors may have to work with inaccurate or insufficient data, which is dangerous in such a high-stakes situation.
Real-time updates about the availability of beds, doctors and medical equipment in hospitals can go a long way in the speedy admission of patients in an emergency. There are Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) that track the availability of beds and emergency rooms. Caretakers, ambulance drivers and physicians can work together to secure a vacant space for the patient.
There are infrared sensors that track the availability of the required type of blood. Other devices track the availability of medical equipment like oxygen pumps, nebulizers and wheelchairs and alert for more medical staff.
3. Hygiene monitoring technology
In March 2020, the Clean Hands Safe Hands initiative was in the news for its wireless technology that helps hospital staff to keep themselves sanitized. It makes use of internet-connected hand sanitizing stations to send notifications about hand washing. IoT healthcare companies have bred these and many other innovations that prevent the spread of infections in a hospital simply by reminding people to wash their hands.
4. Mood monitoring devices
The IoT health initiative has not left out mental health from its contributions. Traditionally, psychiatrists only ask patients about their moods. People don’t always know what they are feeling, and they might even lie. Mood IoT devices track mood by looking at blood pressure, heart rate or eye movements. These devices are a good aid for mental assessment.
5. Health insurance claims
Healthcare IoT databases collect people’s medical history through wearable biosensors and mobile apps. If this information is shared with insurance companies, they can cover personalized treatment options best suited for the patient’s condition. The patient does not have to spend time choosing a treatment if their insurance already covers the right one for them.
Moreover, insurers and customers will be clear on issues like pricing and risk assessment. Customers will be more accepting of data-driven decisions if they know the thought behind them. Lastly, this data will help insurance companies to validate medical claims.
6. Quality control in pharmacies
The pharmaceutical supply chain can become more efficient if coupled with health IoT. Sensors, tags and barcodes can track the movement of medicine stock and send out alerts for restocking. IoT also plays a role in ensuring that newly introduced medications are complying with quality standards. We can do this by recording information about medical research trials and production processes.
As research expands into the technology domain, we can expect a series of creative projects lined up for the future. A fascinating idea is the use of blockchain technology in the health sector. Most of us know blockchain as something related to bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are bought and sold on a blockchain or held in crypto saving accounts for earning interest.
But apart from being used for cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain is essentially a decentralized database. In the context of healthcare, it can provide a secure and transparent sharing of real-time medical data among healthcare providers. Such tools indeed have the potential to revolutionize the global health sector.