How is the IoT improving healthcare?

5th April 2016
Source: Digi-Key
Posted By : Joe Bush
How is the IoT improving healthcare?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has applications that range all the way from automated manufacturing, to controlling the temperature of residential air conditioners. One particular area where IoT is hugely beneficial is in the medical equipment industry.

With IoT devices expected to reach 25 billion by 2020, it’s almost guaranteed that a large number of these sensors will be embedded in medical equipment. What benefits are connected sensors bringing to the medical industry, and are there still concerns to be addressed?

According to Digi-Key Electronics, a worldwide distributor of IoT sensors and technologies, the benefits can be found in a number of areas:

  • Dynamically collecting patient data from remote sensors can aid in preventative care by detecting early warning signs of health problems.
  • These same sensors could be used in long term care situations, and especially in post-operative care.
  • The type of signals that sensors can detect are almost endless. Blood oxygen levels, pulse, insulin levels, blood pressure, temperature and even chemical balances are just a few examples.
  • IoT medication pumps are effective at adequately dosing medications, without the risks of overdose or missed doses that are present when medications are administered manually.
  • With properly designed sensors and monitoring tools, patient input can be kept to a minimum. This means that there is less room for error, but also little learning required by the patient. This offers convenience which is especially beneficial for the elderly and disabled.

Although there are millions of IoT medical devices in use today, there are numerous opportunities for improvement. Before these high-tech devices can truly become the standard for in-patient and out-patient care, these opportunities should be met, and all concerns should be alleviated.

  • There is no worldwide standard for wireless connectivity for IoT connected medical devices. The FDA has put forth some strong recommendations, including wireless protocols to use, and what to consider when it comes to interference and data loss. However, robust global standards are necessary for widespread adoption and implementation.
  • Security is still a major concern for IoT devices. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the most popular IoT medical pumps in the US were vulnerable to hacking, and could even be controlled from a remote source.

Although patients will always be the priority in medicine, there are other ways that IoT will help to improve the healthcare system. IoT will benefit even the devices that aren’t required to collect data. Electronic sensors can be built in to critical equipment and can be used to collect usage statistics, and even track and schedule maintenance. With all of the data coming to a central location, it could increase the efficiency of hospitals and clinics, which in turn could reduce operating costs. The obvious knock on effect is that patients would receive better care, from equipment that is maintained to a higher standard.

There is perhaps no other industry that could benefit as much from IoT, as healthcare. Connected medical devices will free up much needed resources in clinics, reduce the stress and cost for those undergoing care, and will improve the service in hospitals and other health care facilities.

If equipment designers and manufacturers can overcome key security and standards challenges, there is little doubt that IoT devices will be the norm within the next decade, and will be on the leading edge of innovation amongst the wider IoT.


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