You've likely heard about the Internet of Things - the concept of connecting everyday devices and objects to the Internet.
But did you know that IoT is revolutionizing healthcare?
Just look at these stats and you'll know:
The IoT healthcare market is projected to grow from $128 billion in 2023 to $289 billion by 2028. That's a growth rate of almost 18% per year!
From monitoring patient vitals in real-time to tracking medical assets, IoT is enabling doctors and providers to deliver better, more proactive care.
In this post, we'll explore exactly what IoT is, the current IoT healthcare applications, the major benefits it brings, and key challenges too.
Read on to learn how IoT is transforming modern healthcare and changing the future for the better.
What exactly is IoT, and Why is it important In Healthcare?
In simple terms,
“IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with sensors, software, and network connectivity that enables them to collect and exchange data.”
These devices are connected through the internet and create an IoT system that allows them to interact with one another and with other internet-enabled devices and services.
We can consider an IoT healthcare facility as a collection of ubiquitous computing that mainly deals with external activities.
Now you will say, why is IoT important in Healthcare?
So, in healthcare, IoT-based healthcare systems collect a variety of patient data and get inputs from doctors and medical professionals. Continuous glucose monitoring for insulin pens is the best example of this.
All these devices can communicate with each other and take important actions that would provide timely help to save someone’s life. After collecting the data, an IoT healthcare device would send this critical information to the cloud so that doctors can act upon it.
From this, we can say that the potential application of IoT in healthcare can improve a patient’s health, healthcare employee productivity, and hospital workflow.
How IoT Helps In Healthcare — Process
Here is the detailed workflow of IoT healthcare:
- A sensor collects data from a patient, doctor or nurse inputs data.
- AI-driven algorithms like Machine Learning (ML) are used to analyze the collected data.
- The device decides whether to act or send the information to the cloud.
- Doctors or health practitioners can make actionable and informed decisions based on the data provided by IoT healthcare solutions.
What is the current state of IoT in healthcare?
The healthcare industry is beginning to see a surge in the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The rapid development of new innovative technology with various government-integrated facilities is driving market growth.
As we have already discussed above, the healthcare IoT market is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2028) of 17.8%, leading to a market volume of US$289.2 billion by 2028.
Some other key statistics on the current state of IoT in healthcare include:
- The services segment held a 59% revenue share in 2022.
- The hospital segment has garnered a 35% revenue share in 2022.
- Asia Pacific region is projected to grow at a CAGR of 18.50% from 2023 to 2032.
Here is a Market Share of IoT in Healthcare, by Region:
|Revenue Share in 2022 (%)
Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and even patients' homes are starting to integrate IoT devices into healthcare processes. Wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches are some of the most commonly used IoT devices in healthcare. They allow patients to track their fitness levels and monitor their health conditions in real time.
Ingestible sensors are being used to monitor medication adherence and patient vital signs, while computer vision technology is helping to identify early warning signs of diseases like cancer.
IoT technology is improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs. IoT in remote patient monitoring and telemedicine are enabling patients to access care from their homes, which reduces the need for hospital visits and readmissions. Research facilitated by IoT devices is leading to new treatments and improved patient outcomes.
Benefits of IoT in Healthcare
The benefits of IoT in different industries are numerous, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Here are some of the top advantages of IoT in healthcare.
Simultaneous Reporting and Monitoring
According to the report of Research and Markets, the projected growth of the Global RPM (Remote Patient Monitoring) systems market to over $175.2 billion by 2027 indicates that there is a significant and growing demand for remote patient monitoring technologies.
Remote health monitoring via connected devices can save lives in the event of a medical emergency like heart failure, diabetes, asthma attacks, etc.
With real-time monitoring of the health condition in place by means of a smart medical device connected to a smartphone app, connected medical devices can collect medical and other required health data and use the data connection of the smartphone to transfer the collected information to a physician or to a cloud platform.
Center of Connected Health Policy conducted a study that indicates that there was a 50% reduction in 30-day readmission rate because of remote patient monitoring of heart failure patients.
The IoT device collects and transfers health data: blood pressure, oxygen and blood sugar levels, weight, and ECGs.
These data are stored in the cloud and can be shared with an authorized person, who could be a physician, your insurance company, a participating health firm or an external consultant, to allow them to look at the collected data regardless of their place, time, or device.
End-to-end Connectivity and Affordability
IoT can automate patient care workflow with the help of healthcare mobility solutions and other new IoT technologies, and next-gen healthcare facilities.
IoT in healthcare enables interoperability, artificial intelligence machine-to-machine communication, information exchange, and data movement that makes healthcare service delivery effective.
Connectivity protocols: Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, Z-wave, ZigBee, and other modern protocols, healthcare personnel can change the way they spot illness and ailments in patients and can also innovate revolutionary ways of treating across different healthcare fields.
Consequently, technology-driven setup brings down the healthcare cost, by cutting down unnecessary visits, utilizing better quality resources, and improving the allocation and planning.
Data Assortment and Analysis
The vast amount of data that a healthcare device sends in a very short time owing to their real-time application is hard to store and manage if access to the cloud is unavailable.
Even for healthcare professionals to acquire data originating from multiple devices and sources and analyze it manually is a tough bet.
IoT devices can collect, report and analyze real-time information and cut the need to store the raw data. This all can happen overcloud with the providers only getting access to final reports with graphs.
Moreover, healthcare operations allow organizations to get vital healthcare analytics and data-driven insights which speed up decision-making and are less prone to errors.
Tracking and Alerts
On-time alert is critical in chronic conditions. Medical IoT devices gather vital signs of any disease and transfer that data to doctors for real-time tracking, while dropping notifications to people about critical parts via mobile apps and smart sensors.
Reports and alerts give a firm opinion about a patient’s condition, irrespective of place and time.
It also helps healthcare providers to make well-versed decisions and provide on-time treatment.
Thus, IoT enables real-time alerting, tracking, and monitoring, which permits hands-on treatments, better accuracy, apt intervention by doctors and improves complete patient care delivery results.
Remote Medical Assistance
In the event of an emergency, patients can contact a doctor who is many kilometers away with a smart mobile app.
With mobility solutions in healthcare, the medics can instantly check the patients and identify the ailments on-the-go.
Also, numerous IoT-based healthcare delivery chains are planning to build machines that can distribute drugs on the basis of patient prescription and ailment-related data available via linked devices.
IoT will Improve the patient’s care In hospital. This, in turn, will cut on people’s expenses on healthcare.
IoT healthcare applications can also be used for research purposes. It’s because IoT enables us to collect a huge amount of data about the patient’s illness which would have taken many years if we collected it manually.
This data thus collected can be used for statistical study that would support medical research.
Thus, IoT doesn’t only save time but also our money which would go into the research.
Thus, IoT has a great impact on the field of medical research. It enables the introduction of bigger and better medical treatments.
IoT is used in a variety of devices that enhance the quality of the healthcare services received by patients.
Even the existing devices are now being updated by IoT by simply using embedding chips of smart hospital devices. This chip enhances the assistance and care that a patient requires.
Challenges of the IoT in Healthcare
Some key challenges to address for IoT healthcare include:
Data Security & Privacy
One of the most significant challenges in healthcare that IoT poses is data security & privacy. IoT security devices capture and transmit data in real-time.
However, most IoT devices lack data protocols and security requirements.
In addition to that, there is significant ambiguity regarding data ownership regulation with electronic devices.
All these factors make the data highly susceptible to cybercriminals who can hack into the system and compromise the Personal Health Information (PHI) of both patients as well as doctors.
Cybercriminals can misuse patient’s electronic health records to create fake IDs to buy drugs and medical equipment which they can sell later.
Hackers can also file a fraudulent Insurance claim in a patient’s name.
Integration: Multiple Devices & Protocols
Integration of multiple devices also causes hindrances in the implementation of IoT in the healthcare sector. The reason for this hindrance is that device manufacturers haven’t reached a consensus regarding communication protocols and standards.
So, even if a variety of devices are connected; the difference in their communication protocol complicates and hinders the process of data aggregation.
This non-uniformity of the connected device’s protocols slows down the whole process and reduces the scope of scalability of IoT in healthcare.
Data Overload & Accuracy
As discussed earlier, data aggregation is difficult due to the use of different communication protocols & standards. However, IoT devices still record a ton of data. The data collected by IoT devices are utilized to gain vital insights.
However, the amount of data is so tremendous that deriving insights from it is becoming extremely difficult for doctors which ultimately affects the quality of decision-making. This will eventually lead to patient safety issues.
Moreover, this concern is rising as more devices are connected which record more and more data.
Surprised to see cost considerations in the challenge sections?
I know most of you would be; but the bottom line is: IoT has not made healthcare facilities affordable to the common man yet.
The boom in Healthcare costs is a worrying sign for everybody, especially the developed countries.
The situation is such that it gave rise to “Medical Tourism” in which patients with critical conditions access healthcare facilities in developing nations which costs them as little as one-tenth. IoT in healthcare as a concept is a fascinating and promising idea.
However, it hasn’t solved the cost considerations as of now. To successfully implement IoT app development and to gain its total optimization the stakeholders must make it cost-effective otherwise it will always remain out of everyone’s reach except the people from the high class.
Applications of IoT in Healthcare
The rise of IoT is exciting for everybody due to its different scope of use in various sectors. In Healthcare it has several applications. Here are some remarkable IoT applications in healthcare:
- Reducing emergency room wait time
- Tracking patients, hospital staff, and inventory
- Enhancing drug management
- Ensuring the availability of critical hardware
IoT has also introduced several wearables & devices which has made the lives of patients comfortable. These devices are as follows.
Hearables are new-age hearing aids which have completely transformed the way people who suffered hearing loss interact with the world.
Nowadays, hearables are compatible with Bluetooth which syncs your smartphone with it. It allows you to filter, equalize and add layered features to real-world sounds. Doppler Labs is the most suitable example of it.
Ingestible sensors are genuinely a modern-science marvel. These are pill-sized sensors which monitor the medication in our body and warn us if it detects any irregularities in our bodies.
These sensors can be a boon for a diabetic patient as would help in curbing symptoms and provide an early warning for critical health issues. Proteus Digital Health is one such example.
Moodables are mood-enhancing devices which help in improving our mood throughout the day. It may sound like science fiction, but it’s not far from reality.
Thync and Halo Neurosciences are already working on it and have made tremendous progress. Moodables are head-mounted wearables that send low-intensity currents to the brain which elevates our mood.
Computer Vision Technology
Computer vision technology along with AI has given rise to drone technology which aims to mimic visual perception and hence decision-making based on it.
Drones like Skydio use computer vision technology to detect obstacles and to navigate around them.
This technology can also be used for visually impaired people to navigate efficiently.
IoT devices such as Audemix reduce much manual work which a doctor has to do during patient charting.
It is powered by voice commands and captures the patient’s data.
It makes the patient’s data readily accessible for review. It saves around doctors’ work by 15 hours per week.
Insulin Pens and Smart CGM
These devices are used for the real-time monitoring of blood glucose levels and data sharing over a dedicated mobile app. Patients with diabetes can use these devices to track their glucose levels and even send this data to their doctor and the relevant medical staff.
Smart Video Pills
A smart pill travels through a patient’s intestinal tract to take its clear-cut picture. It can then send those pictures to a wearable device that is connected with dedicated medical applications. Smart pills are also helpful to visualize the gastrointestinal tract and colon remotely.
Future of IoT in Healthcare
The impact of IoT on the healthcare industry has been significant, and its potential for the future is exciting. As the healthcare sector becomes increasingly digitized, IoT will play a crucial role in shaping the industry's future.
Here are some IoT future predictions in healthcare:
- Personalized healthcare: IoT devices will allow for real-time collection of health data, which can then be used to create tailored treatment plans for individual patients. This will lead to more effective treatment and better outcomes for patients.
- Remote patient monitoring: With IoT, patients can be monitored remotely, allowing healthcare providers to keep track of their conditions and intervene when necessary. This will result in fewer hospital visits and readmissions, which will ultimately reduce healthcare costs.
- Predictive maintenance: IoT devices will help healthcare providers predict equipment failures and maintenance needs, ensuring that they can provide uninterrupted care to patients.
- Telemedicine: Telemedicine services will be enabled by IoT devices, allowing patients to consult with doctors remotely. This will be especially useful for patients who live in remote areas or have mobility problems.
IoT has become a vital aspect of healthcare. It has brought numerous benefits such as remote medical assistance, real-time tracking, and data analysis, but it also has its fair share of security issues in IoT.
Despite this, IoT applications continue to expand, and wearables, ingestible sensors, and smart video pills are among the leading technologies. The use of IoT in healthcare has the potential to enhance patient outcomes, reduce costs, and promote preventative care. Therefore, IoT is an important tool for healthcare professionals to provide better care for patients.