With the spread of this pandemic still at its peak, medical professionals are adopting new ways of treating patients, while avoiding in-person treatments, unless it is very necessary. Internet of Things (IoT) devices have been very methodical in making this possible.
The integration of IoT devices with smart sensors and algorithms in the medical field, that are connected to an application via the cloud and other connected devices, have been very helpful in fighting against this pandemic. Some of the important services offered by IoT in healthcare include, telemedicine, contact tracing, robotic sanitization and data privacy and protection in the healthcare sector.
1. Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is the most common application of IoT devices for healthcare. IoT devices can automatically collect health metrics like heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and more from patients who are not physically present in a healthcare facility, eliminating the need for patients to travel to the providers, or for patients to collect it themselves.
When an IoT device collects patient data, it forwards the data to a software application where healthcare professionals and/or patients can view it. Algorithms may be used to analyze the data in order to recommend treatments or generate alerts. For example, an IoT sensor that detects a patient’s unusually low heart rate may generate an alert so that healthcare professionals can intervene.
A major challenge with remote patient monitoring devices is ensuring that the highly personal data that these IoT devices collect is secure and private.
2. Glucose monitoring
For the more than 30 million Americans with diabetes, glucose monitoring has traditionally been difficult. Not only is it inconvenient to have to check glucose levels and manually record results, but doing so reports a patient’s glucose levels only at the exact time the test is provided. If levels fluctuate widely, periodic testing may not be sufficient to detect a problem.
IoT devices can help address these challenges by providing continuous, automatic monitoring of glucose levels in patients. Glucose monitoring devices eliminate the need to keep records manually, and they can alert patients when glucose levels are problematic.
These are not insurmountable challenges, however, and devices that address them promise to revolutionize the way patients handle glucose monitoring.
3. Heart-rate monitoring
Heart rates can be challenging, even for patients who are present in healthcare facilities. Periodic heart rate checks don’t guard against rapid fluctuations in heart rates, and conventional devices for continuous cardiac monitoring used in hospitals require patients to be attached to wired machines constantly, impairing their mobility.
Today, a variety of small IoT devices are available for heart rate monitoring, freeing patients to move around as they like while ensuring that their hearts are monitored continuously. Guaranteeing ultra-accurate results remains somewhat of a challenge, but most modern devices can deliver accuracy rates of about 90 percent or better.
4. Hand hygiene monitoring
Traditionally, there hasn’t been a good way to ensure that providers and patients inside a healthcare facility washed their hands properly in order to minimize the risk of spreading contagion.
Today, many hospitals and other health care operations use IoT devices to remind people to sanitize their hands when they enter hospital rooms. The devices can even give instructions on how best to sanitize to mitigate a particular risk for a particular patient.
A major shortcoming is that these devices can only remind people to clean their hands; they can’t do it for them. Still, research suggests that these devices can reduce infection rates by more than 60 percent in hospitals.
5. Depression and mood monitoring
Information about depression symptoms and patients’ general mood is another type of data that has traditionally been difficult to collect continuously. Healthcare providers might periodically ask patients how they are feeling, but were unable to anticipate sudden mood swings. And, often, patients don’t accurately report their feelings.
“Mood-aware” IoT devices can address these challenges. By collecting and analyzing data such as heart rate and blood pressure, devices can infer information about a patient’s mental state. Advanced IoT devices for mood monitoring can even track data such as the movement of a patient’s eyes.
6. Parkinson’s disease monitoring
In order to treat Parkinson’s patients most effectively, healthcare providers must be able to assess how the severity of their symptoms fluctuate through the day.
IoT sensors promise to make this task much easier by continuously collecting data about Parkinson’s symptoms. At the same time, the devices give patients the freedom to go about their lives in their own homes, instead of having to spend extended periods in a hospital for observation.
7. Connected inhalers
Conditions such as asthma or COPD often involve attacks that come on suddenly, with little warning. IoT-connected inhalers can help patients by monitoring the frequency of attacks, as well as collecting data from the environment to help healthcare providers understand what triggered an attack.
In addition, connected inhalers can alert patients when they leave inhalers at home, placing them at risk of suffering an attack without their inhaler present, or when they use the inhaler improperly.
Key Benefits of IoT-Enabled Asthma Management
• Receive notifications when you accidentally leave your inhaler behind.
• Monitor the frequency and causes of asthma attacks.
• Receive notifications when your inhaler is used improperly or ineffectively.
8. Ingestible sensors
Collecting data from inside the human body is typically a messy and highly disruptive affair. With ingestible sensors, it’s possible to collect information from digestive and other systems in a much less invasive way. They provide insights into stomach PH levels, for instance, or help pinpoint the source of internal bleeding.
Ingestible sensors are pill-sized electronics that ping your smartphone with data after you pop and swallow—have started to arrive on the market. Mostly they measure pH, temperature, and pressure or monitor whether or not patients have taken their meds. They must also be able to dissolve or pass through the human body cleanly on their own. But researchers are cooking up novel sensing technologies to detect a much broader range of medical molecules.
9. Connected contact lenses
Smart contact lenses provide another opportunity for collecting healthcare data in a passive, non-intrusive way. They could also, incidentally, include microcameras that allow wearers effectively to take pictures with their eyes, which is probably why companies like Google have patented connected contact lenses. Google has a patent pending for a contact lens with a micro camera and sensors embedded on the surface, controlled by blinking. The patent application reveals that the smart lenses will be able to take photos, process data related to them and carry out tasks based on that processed data.
Smart lenses promise to turn human eyes into a powerful tool for digital interactions.
10. Robotic surgery
By deploying small Internet-connected robots inside the human body, surgeons can perform complex procedures that would be difficult to manage using human hands. At the same time, robotic surgeries performed by small IoT devices can reduce the size of incisions required to perform surgery, leading to a less invasive process, and faster healing for patients.
These devices must be small enough and reliable enough to perform surgeries with minimal disruption. They must also be able to interpret complex conditions inside bodies in order to make the right decisions about how to proceed during a surgery. But IoT robots are already being used for surgery, showing that these challenges can be adequately addressed.
Robotics have been gaining a lot of attention in the medical field lately. It is because of their capabilities to assist in performing highly complex tasks such as neurosurgery and cancer treatments. Apart from this, robotics plays an important role in maintaining hygienic conditions as well. In times like this where human interactions have to be minimized as much as possible.
Non-surgical robots can be used to sanitize and clean the rooms of the patient using UV-light, which is harmful to humans if exposed. Once this process is complete, the robot notifies the workers that the room is now safe to be used. Robotic disinfection methods are proving to be highly effective, whereas traditional disinfection methods were limited to the surface.
The global robotics market is estimated to reach $12.70 (€10.45) by 2025 with a CAGR of 16.5% from 2020 to 2025.
Data privacy and protection in healthcare
As the healthcare industry contains a lot of sensitive information about patients, it has been the prime target of many hackers and cybercriminals. Also, customer trust has been a major factor that has to be taken into consideration as policies vary across different platforms. Since the data transaction between the physician and the patient happens over the cloud, necessary steps have to be taken in protecting confidential information.
A study on the Impact of Covid in different IoT Industries makes it evident that IoT has been gaining a lot of momentum and has been setting new trends in the medical field. The technological advancement in the field of medicine has brought comfort to not only the patients but also to the doctors. Compared with the traditional ways of how things worked in the medical field, of late, IoT medical devices have brought out many positive effects in this field.
IoT for Physicians: By using wearables and other home monitoring equipment embedded with IoT, physicians can keep track of patients’ health more effectively. They can track patients’ adherence to treatment plans or any need for immediate medical attention. IoT enables healthcare professionals to be more watchful and connect with the patients proactively. Data collected from IoT devices can help physicians identify the best treatment process for patients and reach the expected outcomes.
IoT for Health Insurance Companies: There are numerous opportunities for health insurers with IoT-connected intelligent devices. Insurance companies can leverage data captured through health monitoring devices for their underwriting and claims operations. This data will enable them to detect fraud claims and identify prospects for underwriting. IoT devices bring transparency between insurers and customers in the underwriting, pricing, claims handling, and risk assessment processes. In the light of IoT-captured data-driven decisions in all operation processes, customers will have adequate visibility into underlying thought behind every decision made and process outcomes.
IoT for Research:
IoT for healthcare can also be used for research purposes. It enables us to collect a massive amount of data about the patient’s illness which would have taken many years if we collected it manually. This data can be used for statistical study that would support the medical research. IoT don’t only saves time but also our money which would go in the research.
IoT is used in a variety of devices that enhance the quality of the healthcare services received by the patients.
Even the existing devices are now being updated by IoT by simply using embedding chips of a smart devices. This chip enhances the assistance and care that a patient requires.
The proliferation of healthcare-specific IoT products opens up immense opportunities. And the huge amount of data generated by these connected devices hold the potential to transform healthcare. Healthcare-related IoT revenues are expected to reach more than $135 billion (€111.13 billion) by 2025 with 75 billion actively-connected devices across the world.