What is IoT in Healthcare and Why is it Important?

8 mins read

IoT in healthcare or IoHT is the prime example of how businesses and industries are making profound use of the technology of the Internet of Things.

In short IoT, it is the ability of non-living objects and devices to connect, communicate, and share data across a common network for better performance.

For example, remotely controlled smart appliances such as vacuum cleaners, ACs, or geysers. Or app-enabled gadgets such as your smartwatch or other wearables.

With round-the-clock access to your data from your past and present, IoT devices can make better suggestions and offer plenty of remote features including automation.

Having instant access to real-time data and the ability to respond immediately makes IoT a rather useful technology in the realm of virtual healthcare and telemedicine.

Wasting no time either, the healthcare sector is all-in when it comes to using the Internet of Things.

What is the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT)?

There are many examples of IoT applications that make IoHT or the Internet of Healthcare Things as a whole.

For instance, patients use wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands or trackers to obtain better results about their vitals and stats on the go and make necessary changes if needed.

Doctors & physicians on the other hand can access that data right from their phones, apps, and cloud platforms and provide instant remote support if required.

As far as hospitals and medical institutions are concerned, the scope of IoT systems is rather large and significant.

Importance of IoT in Healthcare

The professional healthcare industry, as we all know, is based on non-stop science and technological innovations.

As such, it is not only less far behind but also far ahead in using IoT to its advantage, much to its patients’ pleasure. And why not?

With features such as remote monitoring, data analysis, and online interactions between doctors and patients, IoT has already given a path to revolutionizing the medical community for good.

There are several benefits of IoT for patients, doctors, and hospitals alike. Some of these applications even include health insurance companies and research businesses on a bigger scale.

From sensor-based objects and devices to monitoring equipment of all kinds, data collection and analysis to remote access to patient’s health, and real-time location of medical equipment and the staff, IoT-based healthcare solutions offer plenty of other advantages.

How IoT Helps in Healthcare?

Similar to any other field, the process of IoT in healthcare is the same.

That is, after the deployment of interconnected devices such as the IoT healthcare sensors, monitors, detectors, cameras, etc, has taken place, here’s how it goes:

Step 1: Data is collected by the sensors present in IoT devices.

Step 2: Data is then analyzed using smart AI algorithms and machine learning techniques.

Step 3: Data is transmitted across the server or cloud platform with meaningful insights.

Step 4: Based on the insights, doctors can make well-informed, actionable decisions and healthy recommendations for their clients.

Key Benefits of IoT in Healthcare

IoT is being used by the majority (86%) of healthcare organizations in some way or another. Close to 1/3rd of all IoT devices are used in the healthcare industry alone. Here’s why:

1. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Perhaps the biggest advantage of integrating IoT in healthcare is for patients who are located in remote or rural areas and do not have access to high-end medical services.

As a whole, IoT-enabled devices such as fitness trackers and health apps offer instant ability to doctors and physicians to monitor patients’ health and intervene accordingly.

2. Personalized Care

Having 24/7 access to patients’ conditions and states, doctors, clinics, and hospitals can provide better care that is tailored to individual needs.

3. End-to-End Connectivity

Seamless connectivity between different medical devices and systems allows patients, doctors, and everybody involved to be on the same page when a diagnosis or treatment is ongoing.

4. Telemedicine and Virtual Care

Based on the possibility of providing healthcare over the phone or internet, telemedicine and virtual care, in particular, can take a lot of help from IoT to provide their services remotely.

5. Medication and Prescription Management

Online prescription refills, smart pill dispensers, and app alerts about taking medications on time are some of the crucial advantages of IoT-enabled healthcare systems.

6. Infection Control

While the world is almost out of Covid-19, the clouds of another pandemic might just be on the horizon.

Apart from protecting healthcare workers and patients from catching infections, IoT devices can also help predict the contagiousness of a disease and monitor cleanliness, air quality, and the movement of the people in a healthcare facility.

7. Data Collection and Analytics

Advanced data analytics is the key to making the most out of IoT devices.

Having access to real-time patient data helps hospitals and doctors to understand the conditions better and make well-informed decisions about the diagnosis and treatment.

8. Higher efficiency and cost-cutting

By automating and streamlining many of the tasks and workflows, healthcare facilities can focus on providing the best of their services to patients at hand. Thus, reducing the overall cost of attending to more patients at once.

9. Data-driven decisions

IoT systems are known for their smart data analysis as can be seen with fitness and sleep apps.

In a medical setting, having meaningful insights about a patient’s conditions and vitals is all the more important to provide better data-driven healthcare decisions.

10. Healthy recommendations via alerts and notifications

As I said earlier, with direct access to the patient’s records and real-time stats, doctors and physicians can make healthier suggestions and respond immediately via alerts and notifications if the situation arises.

Major Applications of IoT in Healthcare

Also known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), IoHT has several applications in the healthcare industry from patients, doctors, clinics, and hospitals to CROs and research and diagnostic institutions.

Here’s what they are:

  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM).
  • Telemedicine & Virtual Care.
  • Medication Management.
  • Disease Management.
  • Hospital Operations and Workflows.
  • Asset and equipment tracking.
  • Staff Monitoring.
  • Emergency Care.
  • Elderly Services.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Surgical Assistance.
  • Enhanced Patient Experience.
  • Infection Control.
  • Health Data Analysis

As vast and extensive the scope of IoT in healthcare already is, it is continuously booming, making it more efficient, patient-centric, and data-driven.

Despite that, there are certain challenges that the Internet of Healthcare Things is facin

Challenges Facing IoT in Healthcare

High Initial Cost

Albeit affordable for a patient, the cost of IoT healthcare development and deployment is rather huge, especially for big-scale medical institutions and hospitals.

Privacy and Security

Perhaps the biggest cause of concern in the adoption of IoT in healthcare is privacy and data security.

As more and more data is collected and transmitted over the net, the chances of it being hacked or compromised also increase unless there is proper data security in place.

Market Fragmentation

Being a diverse and fragmented industry makes it rather hard for technocrats and industry leaders to implement IoT across the entire health infrastructure.

This is why it is important for interested parties and healthcare professionals to connect with experienced IoT consulting services that can help them navigate the complex landscape of all things IoT.

Data Storage

Storing huge chunks of raw data is yet another challenge for IoHT developers and end-users.

Moreover, sensors and AI algorithms may not always be accurate in analyzing the data which can lead to errors in judgement of the patients’ conditions.

Environmental Sustainability

Last but not least, there is a need to build efficient and eco-friendly IoT solutions that can reduce the overall carbon footprint.

Sadly, every time we tap on our phone screen, a small amount of carbon is released as well. The same goes for IoT devices! However, when the matter is of life and death, we can’t be too worried about the environment, can we?

IoT Solutions for Healthcare Providers

There is a wide array of IoT solutions including all the technologies and applications that are designed to give patients utmost care with remote medical assistance and data-driven health recommendations.

Some of the common examples of these IoT solutions include:

  • Wearable devices and health monitors such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and vital stats recorders such as smart scales, blood pressure cuffs, and pulse oximeters.
  • Virtual Consultation tools and remote diagnostic equipment such as digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, and ultrasound devices.
  • RFID and smart IoT tags for asset and inventory management.
  • IoT-enabled beds and operation theatres.
  • Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) and cardiac monitoring devices.
  • Fall detection sensors and activity trackers for the elderly and disabled.
  • Surgical and diagnostic tools such as smart endoscopes and imaging machines.
  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) and online patient portals.
  • Infection control and hygiene monitoring systems.
  • AI-powered tools for predictive analysis and diagnosis.

All-in-all, there are many ways in which IoT can improve the healthcare scene.

Future of IoT in Healthcare Solutions

As promising as it is, IoT is driven by factors such as economic conditions, technological innovations, environmental regulations, fierce competition, and most of all, current trends and consumer preferences.

As such, some of the key future trends of IoHT are:

  • Integration of advanced and upcoming technologies such as AI, blockchain, data encryption, and so on.
  • Faster sensor processing.
  • Development of sustainable IoT solutions.
  • Personalization and customization.
  • Digital transformation.
  • E-commerce in IoT.
  • Health and Wellness apps and gadgets.

Conclusion

As one of the pioneers in exploring and utilizing the benefits of IoT, the healthcare industry is all set to make the most of it.

Be it for patients, doctors, medical staff, or health insurance companies, IoHT has changed the way we used to perceive healthcare in the modern era.

Given the speed at which it’s being adopted, the day isn’t far when most of our hospital visits will be replaced by online interactions over the phone or the Internet.

Related Articles