The Internet of Things is an ever-expanding universe of devices and technologies with equally expanding potential uses. According to a survey, a sensor-equipped “thing” must have three qualities. It must be aware; it must be able to sense and collect data about its surroundings, such as temperature and light or, in the case of health care, blood pressure and heart rate.The data collected must be communicated to another device or central location automatically or conditionally. Lastly, it must be actionable. If an individual’s blood pressure or blood sugar levels are at a dangerous level, it must automatically trigger an alert and initiate clinician action. IoT continues to transform healthcare delivery at an unprecedented pace. An increasingly diverse set of smart devices and communication-enabled sensors are making hospitals smarter.
The current trends in the healthcare can be classified in multiple ways based on the perspective of the technology, functionality and the benefits. Most recent smartphones or devices are being launched with health sensors. This enables the mHealth, which refers to the use of mobile and wireless technologies in the practice of medicine and the monitoring of patient health to extend its reach to detect patient parameters and control devices. This can reduce medical errors based on continual monitoring practices and also improve efficiency.
The applications of IoT in the healthcare industry are numerous and new applications are coming up every day. Some of the applications are listed below:
Predicting the Arrival of Patients in PACU
With the intervention of IoT, clinicians can predict the arrival of patients who are recuperating in the Post-Anaesthesia Care Unit (PACU). They can also monitor the status of patients in real time.
Hand Hygiene Compliance
There are hand hygiene monitoring systems that would detect the degree of cleanliness in a healthcare worker. A survey says, about one patient out of every 20 gets infections from lack of proper hand hygiene in hospitals. Numerous patients lose their lives as result of hospital acquired infections.
Remote health monitoring is an important application of IoT. Through monitoring, you can give adequate healthcare to people who are in dire need of help. Every day, lots of people die because they do not get timely and prompt medical attention. With IoT, devices fitted with sensors notify the concerned healthcare providers when there is any change in the vital functions of a person.
In healthcare IoT roadmap, the first wave started with the use of RFID tags to facilitate routing, inventorying and loss prevention, as supply chain helpers. In the second wave, vertical-market applications e.g. security, healthcare, transport, food supply and document management are developed. The third wave, which we are currently experiencing, is about ubiquitous positioning e.g. locating people and everyday objects. The next wave, which is expected to mature in about a decade, will be the creation of a physical-world web e.g. tele-operation and tele-presence, ability to monitor and control distant objects. In this phase of IoT evolution, it is expected that all the physical objects will be seamlessly integrated in all three visions.
There is no doubt that the Internet of Things is transforming the healthcare industry completely by redefining how apps, devices and people interact and connect with each other in delivering healthcare solutions. That is, IoT is constantly offering new tools as well as efficiencies that make up an integrated healthcare system with the view of ensuring patients are cared for better, healthcare costs are reduced significantly and treatment outcomes are improved. The major advantages include- Improved Outcomes of Treatment, Improved Disease Management, Reduced Errors, Enhanced Patient Experience and much more.
IoT –healthcare has challenges in various directions including technical, regulatory, market based and much more. The center of focus is on protecting privacy as this is the main concern of hospitals as well as primary cause of other challenges including government regulations.
As the large amount of IoT devices are connected to the network, large volume of data needs to be processed. The system which stores & analyses this information from the IoT devices needs to be scalable. With full explosion of IoT, the raw data captured from this will be humongous and the scalability and performance of the systems need to be addressed using better techniques in Big Data and Analytics.
The standardization process is still evolving which makes interoperability of IoT devices across vendors as well as with legacy devices can be an issue. This will be preventing us to move towards the vision of truly connected day-to-day interoperable smart objects.
Lack of government support
The government and the regulatory bodies must come and play an active part in bringing up the regulations by setting up the standards committee for IoT devices for safety and security of the devices & people.
Security and personal privacy
Security vulnerabilities and improvements have not been well researched in IoT world. The IoT in healthcare should ensure Confidentiality, Integrity, and availability of patient’s personal data. In IoT, the scale of devices and networks, will open up various challenges for security and privacy of data. Most of the end points and edge networks will be located at the consumer end and will not be behind well secured firewall as in typical corporate environment. This will open it up for more vulnerabilities.
As the technology is improving at a faster rate, the design challenges can be met in the near future. Nevertheless these are still challenges as on today, while designing an IoT based system with limited energy, limited memory and limited computing power.
Approach for IoT Adoption
For adoption of IoT in hospitals to make the hospitals smarter, approach is very important. Hospitals can get overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the IoT solutions. A systematic approach considering current state of the hospital, its budget and features is required. Hospitals are categorized into three main categories, and based on their categories technology adoption can be done by using following steps.
Steps for IoT adoption
|Legacy Hospitals||Keep Existing Equipment
|Hospitals Looking to Upgrade||Keep Existing Equipment and Staff
Add Automation and Trained Staff
|New Hospitals||Get IoT Equipment
Get Trained Staff
Following diagram presents steps for technological upgradation. Hospital should identify their current state on this chart and the destination step. They will have to perform the steps listed between current state and destination step to achieve technological upgrade.
The quantity of SMART data in itself is an asset to SMART healthcare. The meaningful analysis of amassed big data, how it is stored and how to secure it is an integral part in the future of healthcare.
It’s difficult to visualize how IoT in healthcare will mature in coming years, but we are certain that with the rise in interest in IoT and the money being spent in health care innovations, good things are bound to happen in this space. The mobile doctor buddy apps are not meant to be the replacement for experience of the doctors. They should work collaboratively with the doctor. In this approach of complementing the doctor with the technology based inputs, the new trends in IoT has the capability to transform the way the primary healthcare is delivered to the patients. The direction of IoT in healthcare for the developing world are remote consulting, handheld diagnostic devices for detecting epidemic deceases like malaria and cholera. These devices shall have the far wider reach compared to the traditional primary care healthcare. It is evident that IoT will facilitate new business models and new healthcare delivery models in the future for both developing and developed worlds, irrespective of the challenges faced at the current time.
WOCCOT is an enterprise automation platform which can integrate process workflows & communication to enhance business process efficiency. It integrates people, processes and machines to give a seamless user experience in a secure environment. WOCCOT enables rapid implementation of automation solutions. The solution integrates with existing as well as IoT devices. It provides analytics on the process data to derive meaningful insights into your operations.