The Internet of Things has numerous applications in healthcare, from remote monitoring to smart security and medical device integration. It has the potential to not only keep patients safe and healthy but to improve how physicians deliver care as well. Healthcare in IoT can also boost patient engagement and satisfaction by allowing patients to spend more time interacting with their doctors.
Whats holding the Healthcare industry back?
While there are many benefits of IoT in healthcare, it isn’t without its challenges. As with any new technology in healthcare, hospital executives and IT are concerned about data security and IoT device management.
Some obstacles include – The number of connected devices and the tremendous amount of data they collect can be a challenge for hospital IT to manage. There is also the question of how to keep all of that data secure, especially if it is being exchanged with other devices. Not to mention the ability of the hospital organization to even adopt and cut through the red tape to deploy an IoT solution. Often times the solution is designed by committee and will not end up solving the initial problem they set out to solve in the first place. It can also be devastating for the company trying to offer the IoT healthcare solution to a hospital because the sales cycle can often take more than a year and sometimes you end up with nothing!
Uses for IoT in Healthcare
Hospitals are not using IoT to track inventory in as widespread a manner as would be desirable, healthcare could learn a few lessons from retail or even some high tech warehouses. For hospitals, the biggest advantage they can glean from IoT inventory management will be in areas like pharmacy and overall inventory control in warehouses.
Although the concept of RFID has been out there for about 10 years, adoption of this technology hasn’t taken hold as rapidly as most would like. The price point of the devices coming down dramatically and the increasing reliability of the wireless infrastructure are two of the things that are going to help drive this, so it’s more of a timing issue than it is doing it better. It’s just really building the awareness and making the value proposition more clear to the hospitals.
Using the wireless infrastructure and tag devices such as wristbands and ID badges, hospitals can manage throughput. IoT will allow hospitals to also, analyze throughput to understand where bottlenecks exist. It also allows them to work through how to resolve those bottlenecks and then really see the results of that analysis, delivering value more rapidly than the old-fashioned time studies and things used in the past.
Medical Device Integration
Most Companies are looking to integrate things like the Fitbit’s and other fitness devices to bring patient provided data into the cycle of care delivery because the devices already exist in the market. Creating your own device can be costly and time-consuming.
There is an opportunity now to do more with in-home medical devices, there are more devices that are enabled to work on home wireless networks and can easily be installed and implemented via an application on a smartphone.
We’re also just beginning to scratch the surface with integrating those devices to collect the data and directly place it into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, giving us at least some improvement for the clinicians in terms of workflow and ease of documentation.
Tracking or Locating Assets
Hospitals often have 20% to 30% more than they need usually due to not being able to locate the items. Another common issue seen in the healthcare space is somehting called “equipment hording”. Often times a nurse or doctor may stash equipment away in a “secret” location so they have what they need when they need it. When it comes time to inventory these items are marked as missing causing the facility to purchase additional items they already have but can’t find.
The Data Struggle
Hospitals already struggle to handle data, and there’s so much more data that isn’t being utilized, The solution to this problem will be specialized IoT companies that have big data experience like Echolo, realizing the types of data healthcare has and finding ways to mine that data more effectively.