Long before the Internet of Things (IoT) was called that, the health care industry was already using telemetry—the remote gathering of data—for improved health outcomes. So in a way, they are pioneers in the IoT space!
But the promise of the IoT isn’t simply gathering data or even viewing that data locally—it’s connecting to the greater world of the Internet, and generating value therein through access to information.
There are a number of areas that IoT medical devices are disrupting:
See Also: IoT In Health Care: What You Should Know
The IoT is slowly allowing for the health care industry to reduce its dependency on humans (and their associated human errors). Even though IoT medical devices may not always impress the everyday consumer, they are steadily improving health care and providing early diagnosis and treatment of serious issues.
Below, we’re walking through a few IoT health care challenges that application developers have to overcome, some considerations for selecting a technology, and three medical IoT applications that are changing health care today.
Security is important for the IoT industry as a whole, but it’s even more important when you add in patient privacy. The regulations that medical apps need to uphold make innovation in the IoT medical device field a challenge. HIPAA—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—sets the standard for protecting patient data that is created, received, maintained, or transmitted electronically. Privacy is always an issue with health records, but since we now have sensors automatically collecting and storing our medical data, security is even more critical. This means anyone creating an IoT medical device has to keep patient privacy as a top priority.
Cybersecurity is a major concern in every sector, and the health care industry is no different. According to Healthcare IT News, health care facilities in California, Kentucky, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have been hit with ransomware attacks recently. In March 2016, for example, health care group MedStar was the victim of a ransomware attack that rendered their computer systems—and vital patient records—unusable. The company had to resort to using paper records until they could restore their systems.
All this to say, hospitals today are even more hesitant to put anything on their network that is not well-vetted—and since IoT medical devices are the frontier of connectivity and many new applications are hitting the marketplace regularly, they often aren’t well-vetted. But keep in mind that not all technology has to be deployed on the IT network of a hospital.
There are hundreds to thousands of useful—even life-saving—IoT medical applications that are changing the environment of health care today. We’ve highlighted three of them below.
Future Path Medical creates smart fluid management solutions for both patients and caregivers. Their latest medical device system, UroSense, automatically measures urine output and core body temperature (CBT) for catheterized patients. By monitoring these vital signs, medical professionals can detect and start care earlier for heart failure, kidney injury, infectious disease, prostate tumors, diabetes, sepsis, and burns. Measuring CBT can also indicate infection or hypothermia. When used in hospitals, the UroSense provides fill level and CBT data directly to a monitor or nursing station wirelessly.
One of Philips’ most successful IoT applications is their medication dispensing service. It was created for elderly people who often forget to take their medication or take the wrong pills or doses. The device alerts the patient when it’s time to take their pills by using a light and voice reminder, and when the patient pushes the button, pre-filled cups with medication are dispensed. The device is synced to the user’s phone line, so messages are tracked if the person misses a dose, if it’s time to refill the medication, or if the power goes out, preventing the device from working.
Airfinder is a real-time location system for hospitals and other enterprises. It can be installed in minutes at any scale and uses Symphony Link technology to track supplies in an operating room or throughout an entire hospital or facility. Traditionally, real-time location systems (RTLS) have been extremely expensive. Airfinder is a solution to this issue and is offered at a much lower price point than existing RTLS technologies.
It’s hard to predict where IoT medical devices are heading to next—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.
If you’re looking for opportunities, health care is a great place to be. We’re excited to see what kind of innovations—from connectivity, to data privacy, to application architecture—come into that space.