Smart thermostats, connected appliances, self-driving cars – when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), the list of paradigm-shifting innovations is endless. When we consider healthcare and the future of our medical infrastructure, the first thoughts go to wearables – incredible devices that capture and measure biometric data. Whilst these devices have attracted the attentions of inventors, manufacturers and healthcare institutions, there is still an incredible amount of untapped potential in healthcare IoT.
Remote monitoring, telemedicine, real time data analytics – the scope and reach of healthcare IoT is yet to be truly realised. The implementation of the USA’s Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in Europe are two instances of where IoT assets could be leveraged to achieve clear and effective goals in the shipment and delivery of medication. As of November 2017, the DSCSA will require all healthcare enterprises to provide serialisation and lot tracing for designated products throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain – from manufacturing and packaging to distribution and logistics. Similarly, in the EU, enterprises have until February 2019 to implement analogous tracking initiatives under the FMD.
Deploying IoT applications at a workflow level can help improve ROI, reduce waste and tackle redundancy challenges whilst delivering actionable insights that can help streamline communications and collaboration between enterprises. To complement the tracking of medication consignments, there are also environmental factors to consider. For example, if an IoT application can provide real time data on the location and condition of cargo, accurate shipment records and actionable feedback can be devised should conditions deviate from the required thresholds for the transportation of drugs and medicines.
Moving away from the supply chain to hospital-based assets, there are clear applications for the tracking of critical resources such as equipment and personnel. Lost, stolen or underused equipment is a significant drain on a hospital’s budget. Considering the incredible costs that come with everything from bedding and scrubs to wheelchairs and carts, there is a clear opportunity for IoT to play a key role in the management of staff workflows and equipment reserves.
Outside of healthcare, security continues to be a defining factor in the development of IoT applications. Increased data sharing and M2M dialogue present significant risks in data-rich environments and regulatory compliance is highlighting the urgent need for safeguards around device and machine interoperability. With patient data proving to be a vital resource, not just for patient care but for the development of technology, these safeguards will prove as critical for IoT safety as similar measures have been for the internet.