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How Healthcare Providers Can Plan for the IoT

June 23, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) is undergoing some minor growing pains within the healthcare industry. Last year, overall adoption of machine-to-machine technology within the sector reached just 28 percent, behind consumer electronics (29 percent), retail (32 percent), automotives (32 percent) and utilities (37 percent).

Why is healthcare lagging behind these other industries in terms of IoT adoption? After all, concerns about the IoT—security, device interoperability and data management—are no more of a hurdle for healthcare than they are for any other industry.

The difference comes down to factors unique to healthcare, like patient safety, trust and well-being, which raise the stakes when leveraging the IoT as a business tool. Connectivity in healthcare can be classified as mission-critical, even as other industries warm up to the idea of relying on connected technologies to transmit and store sensitive data.

Despite the challenges facing the industry, nowhere are the benefits derived from the IoT expected to be more dramatic than in healthcare, which is why the industry does represent one of the five fastest-growing IoT verticals. Over the next few years, the obstacles to IoT adoption should become fewer and farther between for healthcare providers as new advances are made in this space. Right now, for instance, the industry is undergoing a massive transformation to become more connected and more accessible to consumers using a variety of tools—from video to voice to pictures to medical sensors. For example, a gain from this shift will be the easing of communications with medical professionals in remote locations.

Just how big will of a transformation can we expect? According to Research and Markets, the IoT healthcare industry will continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 38.1 percent from 2015 to 2020, at which time it will be a $163.24 billion industry. And this is just the beginning of the connectivity movement; healthcare as we know it is about to be forever changed thanks to the IoT.

Let’s take a look at some of the positive outcomes that will come about as the IoT continues to spread throughout the healthcare industry.

Time and money savings
Let’s face it: It’s not always easy, or convenient, to visit a doctor. Doctors’ appointments inevitably cut into work, family or leisure time. Consequently, many people simply avoid going altogether.

The IoT will eliminate many of the barriers that typically prevent patients from receiving timely care. For instance, doctors will be able to use data generated from consumer-worn devices to track and monitor patients from afar, helping to identify patients who should see a doctor and limit visitations for others. Instead of traveling to a doctor’s office at all, some patients will be able to engage in remote checkups from their homes using live streaming video. With data-driven insights on patient needs available between in-person visits, doctors can keep closer tabs on their patients, reducing the likelihood of catastrophic events arising and going unnoticed.

Faster response times
Of course, the IoT won’t just make it more convenient for patients to communicate with doctors. It will also expedite response times during emergencies.

Using wearable technologies equipped with connected devices and smart sensors, doctors will be able to quickly identify medical abnormalities or accidents as soon as they arise. If an elderly patient falls at home, for instance, a doctor can be notified and an emergency response team can be dispatched for immediate care.

Connected devices will also provide doctors or emergency personnel with critical and accurate information while a patient is in transit. Doctors will know a patient’s exact condition before performing any kind of medical procedure which will save time and increase success rates.

Improved patient satisfaction
One of the most important parts about the IoT’s position in the healthcare industry is that it will foster ongoing communication with doctors and medical teams, which will allow doctors to more accurately predict and prevent medical issues. This will yield stronger patient satisfaction rates.

Doctors will be able to collect and track patient data over long periods of time, which will provide a more comprehensive overview of patient health levels. It could also be pooled and compared along with the results from other patients to gain a better understanding as to how patients are responding to certain treatments.

The hope is that by regularly communicating with doctors, patients will develop more trusting relationships with them and as a result will be more inclined to seek medical consultation for ailments that would otherwise go unreported.