It's fair to say that all eyes are on the healthcare sector as we begin the slow process of emerging from the pandemic. Because technology is so vital in facilitating this return to normality (not to mention the general betterment of the public's health going forward), vast sums of money are currently being invested in order to develop and implement change-making systems involving IoT.
Here are four ways that IoT will positively impact healthcare in 2021:
Wearables to use at home
Not only are we looking at healthcare to help us during the transition from a locked down life to normality, but there has been a realisation that people are slipping through the net. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that more needs to be done to make medicine and essential care available outside of the hospital setting, and that is one of the areas where IoT can make a huge impact going forward.
Wearables are an easy way to collect up to the minute data, monitor patients, and deliver healthcare while minimising unnecessary contact or arduous travel. Sensors can monitor the likes of blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar and more to create a personalised healthcare plan that informs patients about their health and safety parameters in real time.
Not only that, but wearables can also predict issues based on current and previously gathered medical data, while intelligent analytics can be shared with doctors and next of kin in case of emergencies.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities can harness IoT devices to view and monitor the positions of patients and medical staff in real time. Being able to locate any individual at any time has huge health benefits, allowing for a much faster response in the event of an emergency. In turn, a more rapid response time significantly cuts the likelihood of lasting damage and death.
Using IoT to digitally track a patient, a healthcare provider can automate procedures such as registration, ward allocation, vital stats monitoring and medication alerts to create a smoother process.
The data that arises from each patient can then be uploaded to a cloud-based health information management system. Here, it can be used to generate data that can aid in medicine sale analysis, patient intake number monitoring, and the development and improvement of tools such as temperature monitoring sensors.
Of course, the area of IoT development that is most under the microscope is the ways in which it can provide relief and assistance throughout COVID-19 and other virus outbreaks.
- Thermal screening
Non-contact infrared sensors, and other thermal screening processes, act as thermometers to measure the temperature of subjects remotely. Paired with an AI to quickly process results and parse through those scanned, these systems can immediately identify those with high temperatures so that they can be checked for further symptoms.
- Facial recognition, even with coverings
Biometrics security processes such as facial scanning have suffered due to the necessity for mask wearing. Now though, deep learning systems used within facial recognition technology have improved to the point where they can identify masked individuals with an accuracy of up to 95%.
- Analysing CT scans
Human error can lead to misread CT scan data, but by using IoT (and processing scan data through AI and machine learning) conditions such as pneumonia caused by COVID-19 can be identified more readily after a chest CT scan.
The emergence of IoMT
Wearable devices and apps have successfully utilised IoT to track and help treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes for a while now, making life easier for patients and doctors alike.
Now though, spurred on by the need to react and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, IoT is being integrated with telemedicine and telehealth technologies to form a more comprehensive Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). IoMT includes wearables to be used remotely, at home, as well as more high-tech machines such as EKG and ECG monitors. By utilising IoMT, common medical measurements and diagnostics such as blood pressure and glucose levels can be taken and shared across devices, allowing for a more streamlined treatment and after care process with a smaller chance of human error.
As it stands, manufacturers still regularly rely on proprietary protocols when it comes to devices talking to each other. In order for IoMT to reach its full potential this is an issue that will have to be overcome. Similarly, connection issues can still be exacerbated by environmental factors, so buffering methods on microcontrollers need to be made more robust to better serve the technology.
The IoT industry is projected to be worth in the region of $6.2 trillion by 2025, with the healthcare industry accounting for 30% of the market share for devices sold. With those numbers it's impossible to deny the impact that IoT is having on the medical world. With such huge investment and rapid development of new technologies and solutions, it's going to be fascinating to see what IoT trends the next few years has in store for healthcare.