The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly being recognised by researchers and analysts as one of the most sophisticated technologies that has the potential to not only affect the health, safety and productivity of billions of people but also has a major economic impact. It primarily consists of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, actuators, computing devices and data communication capabilities. These are linked to networks for data transportation.
Imagine a scenario where a patient’s medical profile, vital parameters, and dialysis machine inputs are captured with the help of medical devices attached to his body. The patient does not even have to move from facility to facility to receive treatment. Rather, he can get his dialysis done with the help of a portable/home machine designed for the purpose. Data gathered from this device is analysed and stored, and the aggregation from multiple sensors and medical devices helps make informed decisions in a timely manner. Caregivers can monitor the patient from any location and respond appropriately, based on the alert received. Advanced treatment of this nature can drastically improve a patient’s quality of life.
Health and wellness is one of the most promising application areas of IoT technology. Remote health management, managing lifestyle-related diseases and conditions, fitness programs, care at home, chronic diseases and care for the elderly are some of the important use cases. Other use cases include improving a patient’s compliance to treatment and medication in hospitals, clinics and other care facilities. Medical devices such as personal home-use diagnostic devices or low-end diagnostic and imaging devices that are used by mobile health workers are one of the key technology components. Backend systems exist for data aggregation, storage, analytics, visualisation and host user-centric services. In the IoT, physical objects monitor their surroundings and participate in daily activities, helping create new products, services and business models, to improve efficiency and optimize business operations.
Additionally, mobile phones can be used for many physiological monitoring and examination tasks. The potential economic impact of IoT in healthcare alone could run into trillions of dollars of annual savings. In this paper, we identify potential application use cases as well as the challenges caused by the IoT on medical devices.
Applications of IoT in healthcare
Connected healthcare programs utilise scarce resources to provide an improved quality of care, leading to better clinical outcomes. Measureable benefits of connected medical devices include reduction in mortality rates, reduced clinic visits, emergency admissions, and hospital admissions, including reduction in bed days of care and length of stay in hospitals. The major use cases in this domain include:
Care for the pediatric and the aged: Connected health programs are designed to improve existing healthcare systems for pediatric and aging populations. The key idea is to allow the care to be administered in the patient’s home. Pediatric patients need attention and specialized care. Most aged patients, on the other hand, have multiple chronic diseases. Their physiological parameters, activities and home environment need constant supervision. Another class of devices detects mood and emotion which is used to monitor the psychological state of the patient.
Chronic disease management: Chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, pulmonary problems and other diseases affect billions of people worldwide. Chronic disease management involves managing the lifestyle of the patient via continuous engagement, to help the patient adhere to a personalized care plan involving specific treatment, medication and diet regimes.
Personal health and fitness management:This class of applications is intended for people who are self-motivated and take steps to stay healthy and fit. These users monitor their daily exercise and fitness regimes and use an app or web based application to store the data and keep track of their progress. These apps are also used to track adherence to schedules created by trainers. Sensors and devices used in this case include weight sensors, activity monitors, heart rate and blood pressure monitors, connected treadmills and other fitness equipment.
Unlocking the potential
Connected medical devices and associated IoT technologies will primarily be used to achieve the following capabilities:
- Access real time visibility of the patient’s condition, his/her activities, context and physiological parameters
- Monitor compliance to prescribed treatment, diet and exercise regimes
- Provide feedback and cues to patients, family members, doctors and caregivers in order to implement corrective action
- Leverage high performance computing for real time feedback and use evidence-based medicine for better patient outcome
Remote monitoring of patients leads to more effective and timely treatment, leading to better management of health. In addition, patients (and their relatives) are empowered by getting greater visibility into their actual health conditions, enabling them to play an active role in controlling and influencing their treatment.
IoT will drastically change the face of healthcare monitoring and treatment outcomes. By providing personalised and optimised services, it will promote a better standard of living. Nations across the world are struggling to improve patient care and IoT provides a timely and cost-effective response to this critical imperative. Moreover, recent developments in sensor, internet, cloud, mobility and big data technologies have led to affordable medical devices and connected health programs, vastly increasing the potential of Medical IoT to influence further changes.
Connecting Networked Devices
How to effectively prototype and scale IoT in your enterprise.
The amount of data that lives on systems that are unconnected (or unreliably connected) to the network vastly outweighs the data that lives in the cloud.
Read this O’Reilly Media guide, and you’ll learn about:
- The unique security challenge for connected devices in the IoT
- The relevant differences between local devices, devices on the IoT edge, and devices in the cloud
- How to prototype and what you need to plan for scale
- What to consider when designing your prototype
- How to address the life-cycle activities of a connected device