Robotics, wearables, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) – there’s no denying it; we truly have embraced the Internet of Things (IoT). Its profound impact on our culture and economy has led to one of the most creative and lucrative periods of our history, and it’s only just begun. With almost 80 billion devices expected by 2025, the reach and scope for IoT could soon see a transformation within healthcare – one that is sorely needed today.
Whilst 2017 was the year of the wearable, its predicted 2018 will be the year of analytics. By implementing sensors, gateways, and other IoT-powered devices, hospitals can gather, analyse, and interpret their data. Insights gleaned from big data can lead to drastically reduced operational costs, whilst remote monitoring at the GP level can lead to personalised care in the community and at home.
The focus on pre-hospital care is a key factor for analytics. Supporting patients before a visit is required can lead to reduced admissions, better patient-to-doctor ratios, and improved quality of care for those that urgently require it. Examples such as digital health advisors, smartphone doctors, and AI-powered medical support are already seeing great success at the community level, and it’s the hope that 2018 will lead to more organisations incorporating IoT.
Diagnosis – Monitoring genetic predispositions and test markers can lead to pre-diagnoses before symptoms arise, resulting in more effective treatments without lengthy hospital stays.
Automation – Machines can be designed to handle the staggering volumes of data that run through Trusts every single day. Turning to automated workflows can help to reduce errors at the care level, whilst reduce costs and waste at the operational level.
Costs – From doctor’s visits and consultation calls to tests and medication, there are factors within the treatment journey that can be managed through internet-connected services. Whether it’s speaking to your doctor via an app, receiving your prescription via email, or sending test results via a wearable, a medical condition doesn’t have to result in a hospital stay. Managing a condition at home can be made easier for the patient whilst reducing costs for the hospital.
Experience – Combining all the above will most certainly lead to an improved patient experience. Reduced costs, shorter waiting times, enriched quality of care, better doctor-to-patient ratios – these are significant factors in how the public views the healthcare sector and the trust they have in their care.
Autonomous vehicles on the road, smart speakers in our homes, intelligent buildings in our cities – the IoT age has begun, however we’re yet to see mainstream cases within healthcare. Whilst this will improve exponentially over the coming years, there are always questions when faced with something new. Are we ready to get first-line care from an AI? Should we feel comfortable being monitored by a sensor? Do we trust that our records are safe in an app? A new age for healthcare is coming, we just need to see the benefits sooner rather than later.