How the IoT Is Changing Healthcare IT

By Kayla Matthews, HealthIT writer and technology enthusiast, Tech Blog
Twitter: @ProductiBytes

The Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting society in many different ways. Although the IoT is useful in roles involving industrial manufacturing, advanced business intelligence and similar niches, its effects are felt nearly everywhere — including healthcare.

Increased Competitiveness
In some cases, the increased competitiveness offered by the IoT is a challenge to healthcare providers and medical facilities. As patients now have access to doctors and physicians from all around the world, it’s much easier for them to receive a diagnosis — whether it’s accurate or not.

Patients also have access to more treatment options than ever before. With new prescriptions created on an almost daily basis and alternative uses for established medicines uncovered on a regularly, patients don’t always have to accept their primary doctor’s opinion.

Medical institutions and healthcare providers that know how to make the most of the IoT will benefit from greater access to technology and, as a result, the ability to gain an edge over the competition — locally or otherwise.

Using Data From Many Different Sources
It wasn’t long ago when doctors and physicians only had to worry about collecting data from a few different sources. Some patients would live their entire lives with the same doctor or facility, thereby making the job of collating and processing their medical histories that much easier.

But this isn’t always the case in the 21st century. It’s more common for individual patients to seek services from multiple doctors throughout their lives instead of sticking with just one. Factor in different insurance providers, various treatment techniques and specialty doctors and the amount of incoming data becomes overwhelming.

All of this data requires a high level of security. Not only do hospitals and their employees have to abide by specific rules and standards — including HIPAA guidelines — but IT administrators also need to safeguard servers, workstations and desktops from unauthorized users.

Complicating matters even further is the fact that healthcare facilities don’t always use the same equipment. While one hospital uses secure laptops and smartphones to transmit sensitive data, others still rely on fax machines. Some are embracing web-based faxing, which provides more security than traditional dialup service.

Creating a Better Patient Experience
In many ways, the IoT is all about provider customers — or in this case patients — with a better service experience. It’s a subjective topic that means different things to different people, but most can agree that the standardized approach of treating patients en masse and nonchalantly prescribing new medications can use some improvement.

Doctors, healthcare providers and medical institutions are improving the patient experience in many different ways and much of their work is a direct result of the IoT. This includes breakthroughs like:

  • Wearable Technology: Bracelets and other devices that monitor vital signs are affordable and easy to use. Doctors can typically monitor such hardware remotely, which saves patients the hassle of visiting the office.
  • Automated Appointment Alerts: Oishei Children’s Hospital uses the IoT to provide automated appointment alerts to their patients, thus reducing some of the stress and anxiety involved in the process. The feature is available through their handy smartphone app.
  • Virtual Patient Observation: High-end medical equipment lets nurses and doctors monitor patients from a remote connection. Not only does this limit their exposure to patients with contagious diseases, but it also reduces costs by eliminating the need for in-room patient sitters at all times.

Nobody ever said the IoT is easy. Making a successful transition — all while minimizing service downtime and maintaining business as usual — is challenging doctors, healthcare providers and medical facilities to improve their services across the board.

Although it requires a concentrated effort from everyone involved, including the patients, the IoT will ultimately change the scope of healthcare for the better.