The internet of things — “smart” devices that send and receive data using the internet — seems poised to radically change how we live and work. While the tech is often associated with “smart” consumer devices, it’s also having a significant impact on the healthcare device sector.
The remote connectivity that IoT tech offers can allow doctors to keep an eye on patient health throughout the day. This information is invaluable — especially as healthcare facilities around the world begin experimenting with telehealth and other remote health services.
Here is how IoT is changing the healthcare technology market.
- Smart Patient Monitoring
Doctors and nurses can use IoT-enabled remote patient monitoring solutions to keep an eye on patient vitals without needing to be in close contact — a critical feature for hospitals trying to manage distance between patients and staff.
These monitoring solutions come in many different forms. For example, there are smart hospital beds that integrate patient monitoring tech directly into the bed itself. These beds track patient vitals, allowing for continuous monitoring of patient health, and can automatically alert doctors if a patient’s health becomes critical.
Data from some smart beds can also be fed into hospital record systems or administrative systems that track how many beds are currently available. When a patient is discharged, the smart bed can automatically update its status, allowing administrative staff to move new patients into beds as soon as they’re available.
- Smart Health Wearables
Manufacturers are beginning to offer consumer healthcare devices with IoT connectivity. New glucose monitors, thermometers and electrocardiograms feature internet connectivity, allowing patients and doctors to track health information. This health data is especially valuable because it’s updated over time, allowing doctors to see fluctuations in vitals throughout the day.
In some cases data from these devices are even being used to inform public health policy. Kinsa, a manufacturer of smart thermometers, made headlines in early April 2020 after the company began publishing data on elevated flu symptom rates from its thermometers in an online map.
The data, intended to help the public track the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak, was updated in real-time, unlike official numbers. The data-set was so valuable that some public health officials even began using the information to keep track of the virus’s spread.
Many consumer wearables are also beginning to incorporate advanced health tech. Some of the newest Apple Watches and Fitbits, for example, come with photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensors. These sensors, which track changes in blood volume, can provide both patients and doctors with valuable, real-time data on heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxidation.
The new Apple Watch also comes outfitted with an electrocardiogram (ECG) that tracks similar heart health information.
These wearable sensors can be a valuable tool for doctors who want to track the health of patients prone to heart disease — one of the leading causes of death in America — without regular visits to the doctor’s office. As more and more practices begin offering telehealth services, these devices may become even more useful for doctors.
- IoT Devices Are Reshaping the Healthcare Device Industry
New IoT devices are on track to transform both our personal lives, as well as a number of industries across the economy. IoT healthcare devices — which are primarily used to enable remote patient monitoring — offer big benefits for both doctors and patients.
Influence from outside the industry may speed up the adoption of this new tech.
It’s no secret that major tech companies, like Google, Microsoft and Apple, are looking for ways to break into the healthcare industry. All three of the businesses have made headlines in the past few years with new healthcare projects and deals with major hospitals.
It’s likely that smart medical devices will be a key component of their strategy. Microsoft recently updated its cloud platform, Azure, with features designed to make it easier for healthcare device companies to integrate IoT support. The company even hosts a tutorial on how device designers can create templates for IoT patient monitoring apps on its website.
Over the next few years, as new IoT-based healthcare devices become available — and as major tech companies continue to push for influence within the healthcare industry — adoption of IoT tech may accelerate.