There was once a time when medical professionals didn't have a database of facts at their fingertips. There was no disease contact tracing or access to the latest information. Doctors and nurses had to do the best they could with the information at hand. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), the landscape of health care is vastly different in the 21st century.
Experts predict the IoT health care market will hit $534.3 billion by 2025. With the unexpected challenges from the most recent pandemic, the need for using IoT for contact tracing becomes clear. Many health providers also moved to a virtual meeting space for non-life-threatening situations.
Many IoT health care applications are creating a better experience for patients already. Here are just a few ways technology is improving the industry.
1. Connecting Doctors and Patients
Apps allow doctors to stay connected to their patients without the dangers of in-person meetings. There is no need for both people to don a mask and sit 6 feet apart. If the patient needs a basic checkup, most of the effort happens online via a virtual meeting. However, the applications of IoT go further than just instant doctor appointments. Providers can send questionnaires and gather basic information, saving time and tracking patient history more carefully.
2. Providing Better Data Security
Headlines show data breaches are a serious problem across all major industries. They cost the health care industry $6 billion each year. Health care is a target for hackers because of the personal nature of the information collected. If patients don't feel their information is safe with you, it's hard for them to share all the intimate details you need to keep them healthy in the long term. Offering accelerated security options via apps and cloud servers is a start.
3. Keeping Supplies Safe
IoT technology uses sensors to ensure vaccines stay at the correct temperature for maximum effectiveness. An alarm sounds if it starts to edge out of acceptable parameters. With COVID-19 and other concerns out there, the sooner a vaccine is made available, the sooner people can get back to their normal lives. Tracking and protecting the supply chain is a vital part of ensuring all citizens get the immunizations they need.
4. Creating Conversational Interfaces
Health care professionals save a lot of time by gathering data before interacting with patients. Today's artificial intelligence (AI) is intuitive and has human-like thinking. A chatbot can interact with the patient before an overworked MD comes into the picture. Many minor issues can easily be taken care of by a conversational interface via a desktop computer or SMS messaging.
5. Improving Efficiency
When COVID-19 first arrived in the United States, officials worried about hospital capacity and if there would be enough beds for everyone struck with the virus. Nearly any facility has areas needing improvement. Sensors placed on inpatient wristbands save time as workers pull up key points by scanning them instead of punching data into a machine or asking a faltering patient the same questions over and over. Because the process is more efficient, staff moves faster and patients get timely help.
6. Reducing Deadly Errors
When everything is automated, it's more difficult to make mistakes costing someone their life. There are no more worries about double doses of medications or giving patients the wrong IV bag. Nurses and doctors are humans who work long, grueling hours. The more exhausted someone is, the more likely they are to make a mistake. Adding technology into the equation is like getting a second set of eyes to ensure everything is as it should be.
7. Managing Diseases
The CDC reports 34.2 million Americans have diabetes—or about 10.5% of the population. The IoT allows diabetics to better manage their disease by tracking blood glucose levels and heart rates, and even keeping a diary of food and exercise. Some apps also allow patients to track when they've taken insulin and share patterns with doctors for a long-term plan to improve health and reduce medications. Diet plays a critical role in how well someone diagnosed with diabetes fares, so utilizing technology to improve health also increases longevity.
8. Organizing Research
Research is one of the most important elements of improved health care. It's hard to keep track of details in a study, particularly if it runs over several years with hundreds of subjects. Scientists use IoT as an aid in collecting data and organizing it for later analysis. They can also tap into the research of others and consider the results of additional when coming to conclusions about a new medical treatment.
9. Solving the Health Care Worker Shortage
There is a shortage of both doctors and nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent situation, particularly in the hardest-hit states, such as Minnesota and New York. The IoT has an opportunity to help in a couple of key ways. Apps offering doctors on demand bring medical professionals to rural and un-derserved communities. Data is also utilized to show where workers are abundant and request they temporarily relocate to places most in need.
Adopting New Tech Quickly
The health care sector is fast about embracing new technological advances. The abilities of today's IoT is certain to change in the coming years. It should be interesting to see the many ways more connected devices help providers meet patients' needs.