Pedometers, mobile blood glucose tracking devices, apps that measure sleep quality, at-home cardiac monitoring devices—the Internet of Things (IoT) is making a big impact on the healthcare industry, and has the potential to boost patient engagement, improve population health, and help reduce healthcare costs.
The Atlantic Council outlines four categories of IoT medical devices: consumer-based devices, like fitness trackers; wearable, external devices like insulin pumps; embedded devices, such as pacemakers; and stationary devices, including at-home IV pumps and fetal monitors.
The IoT has the potential to transform the healthcare landscape: Experts predict that the market for IoT technology in healthcare will top $117 billion by 2020.
IoT Offers Widespread Healthcare Benefits
Smart technology will likely have a serious impact on several areas of the healthcare industry landscape and provide benefits across the board, including:
- Flexible patient monitoring—IoT technology gives patients and providers the ability to monitor health beyond the exam room, which is a big step forward in the transition to value-based care from fee-based services.
- Improved drug management—Patients, providers, payers and pharmacists can utilize IoT to monitor prescriptions from e-prescriptions all the way to tracking appropriate use of the medications.
- Increased patient engagement—A major piece of the healthcare puzzle is figuring out how to motivate patients to take a more active role in their own care. Utilizing mHealth technology and wearable tech has the potential to engage patients.
- Reduced costs—From the individual patient to the healthcare supply chain, the ability to automate tasks, gather data and take action on the results has the ability to significantly lower costs across the board.
- Implications for improving population health—Big data gathered via IoT health technology has the potential to provide information that will drive predictive analytics and up the effectiveness of population health initiatives.
Healthcare Adoption of IoT Devices
The healthcare industry may lag a little behind in adopting IoT technology than the mainstream for a few reasons:
- Security and privacy issues—In the wake of several massive data breaches, concerns over security and privacy are warranted. Healthcare companies will need to work with experienced healthcare IT professionals to ensure data is effectively protected.
- Lack of market and device standards and regulations—While the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working to develop and implement standards and regulations concerning how data gathered via IoT is used, there isn’t an agreed-upon set of standards in place, which can result in a risk to security.
In order to truly harness the capability of the Internet of Things in healthcare, providers, payers, patients and healthcare IT companies will need to coordinate closely and cooperate with each other to achieve shared goals.