IoT in Healthcare: Benefits, Applications, and Challenges
IoT has entered almost all industries, from production and logistics to retail and healthcare. People have adopted IoT in Healthcare the fastest, as hospitals, doctors, and patients use IoT devices for monitoring patients, managing hospital operations, and tracking overall health.
IoT Healthcare Market Overview
IoT technologies are seen as a way to address the increase in chronic diseases and the rising costs of healthcare in developed countries by helping doctors work more effectively and helping ordinary people take charge of their health.
The global IoT healthcare market will reach over $530 billion by 2025, growing at an almost 20% CAGR.
The global revenue IoT companies will get from creating software and hardware for the healthcare sector will rise to $135 billion in 2025.
The reason for such growth, Grand View Research says, is the increasing demand for real-time monitoring devices that allow doctors, patients, and ordinary people to monitor their health continually and fight chronic diseases.
Other factors of IoT market growth include the demand for IoT devices in healthcare operations, for example, in asset management.
Most IoT devices for healthcare are used to monitor patients. The number of people who are remotely controlled will reach 50.2 million by 2021. So the demand for IoT devices will only increase.
In this article, we’ll talk about how IoT devices benefit the healthcare sector, how exactly they’re used, and what challenges there are to overcome before IoT technologies can be fully integrated into our everyday healthcare routines.
Benefits of IoT in Healthcare
Fewer Human Errors
Though IoT devices pose the risk of overloading doctors with data, if used correctly, they can help with diagnosis. Also, IoT devices can help track patients’ activities and reactions to medication, which can help to personalize treatment plans and reduce the possibility of medical errors.
If an IoT system is correctly integrated into a hospital’s infrastructure, it can significantly increase the speed and effectiveness of routine processes. Doctors and other hospital staff spend much time on tasks that can and should be automated.
Also, IoT devices can help doctors manage the chaos in which they sometimes can’t find equipment, other staff members, and documents.
Better Control Over Hospital Staff and Environments
Sticking to healthcare standards can be challenging when there are lots of patients and tasks to take care of. IoT devices, especially wearables, can track whether doctors wash their hands regularly by medical standards, for example.
Doctors and nurses in hospitals are always busy with documents and patient visits, so sometimes it can be hard to know where they’re most needed at the moment. Real-time monitoring of patients allows hospital staff to react to critical changes immediately.
Real-time monitoring is also helpful for remote care. And together with telemedicine, doctors can provide accurate recommendations to patients that can’t be seen in person.
Applications of IoT in Healthcare
In 2018, 73% of all medical IoT devices were used for monitoring patients, while 50% were used for remotely controlling medical devices, according to Healthcare Magazine. Another 47% incorporated location-based services for asset management and activity monitoring. There are, however, lots of other ways you can apply IoT technology to healthcare. Let’s talk about them in detail.
Remote Patient Monitoring and Data Collection
This is the most popular way IoT devices are applied in healthcare. Remote monitoring helps doctors react to changes in measurements like:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Heart rate
- Sleep quality
- Body temperature
Remote patient monitoring helps to fight chronic diseases and can be used both in and out of the hospital.
Personal Health Monitoring
Many people use IoT devices — usually smartwatches and wristbands connected with a mobile app — to monitor their own health. Such wearables are becoming more and more advanced. For example, Apple Watch already has its Health app, and HealthKit allows developers to create new healthcare apps that use the potential of Apple Watch sensors.
Optimization of Hospital Operations
Hospitals actively integrate IoT technologies into their everyday workflows to lower the cost of services and be more competitive. The hospitals can use IoT technologies to optimize their internal processes by monitoring things such as:
- Air quality
- Air temperature
- Medical data transfers
IoT devices can effectively monitor a hospital environment and allow doctors to react to changes in real-time. For example, air quality monitors can check the moisture level, which can affect patients with respiratory diseases.
Medical data transfers are closely connected to patient monitoring: hospitals can transfer gathered data to electronic medical records. This will allow doctors to see the dynamics of a patient’s vitals and see how diseases progress.
Managing hospital assets can be a challenge. Lots of equipment, medications, and devices are often needed immediately, and finding them in a large facility can be hard.
For this, hospitals can use IoT technologies. Position tracking and indoor geolocation data can show hospital staff where equipment is — for example, on which floor and in which room. IoT devices can offer precision tracking by combining data from Wi-Fi, GNSS, and cell signals to locate all devices within a hospital.
Also, IoT devices can monitor equipment functionality and notify hospital staff if maintenance is needed.
Hospital Staff Management
IoT devices can increase the efficiency of hospital staff as well. As hospitals and healthcare institutions usually have a large and complex infrastructure with different subdivisions and campuses, it’s vital to locate and direct the staff. IoT helps with that, as it organizes teams and streamlines care provision.
These are some examples of IoT devices that can help make a hospital network more efficient:
- Connected video cameras
- Wireless ID cards
- Bluetooth beacons
Wristbands with BlueTooth beacons and movement tracking can even check if staff members wash their hands often enough and automatically remind them to do so.
Smart pills are still a somewhat foreign concept, but more and more healthcare establishments are using them to get information on how medicine influences particular patients. Smart pills are usually equipped with sensors that react to a body’s environment and transfer data to mobile apps. This data includes the exact time the medicine was taken and the chemical and physical reactions to it, including positive responses and side effects.
This data helps to customize medications for particular patients and make sure that treatment is as effective as possible. It also helps doctors make sure medicine is taken as prescribed: at the right time and in the proper dosage.
Challenges of IoT in Healthcare
Security of IoT Devices
IoT, in general, faces many security challenges. There are two reasons for that:
- No industry standards
- Lots of entry points for hackers
We’ll talk a bit about industry standards next. Entry points, though, are a significant concern: one IoT system can connect dozens of IoT devices, and any tiny breach in one device can compromise the whole system.
Another challenge is complying with rigorous healthcare data security standards. Startups, businesses, and hospitals that want to adopt IoT technology need to make sure they are compliant, as the fines can reach thousands of dollars in case of a data breach.
In the US, healthcare data is mostly regulated by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) legislation. Other countries in Europe and Asia have their law.
Compliance with them often requires changing the architecture of current software, constant security checks, and hiring a third-party cybersecurity specialist for independent expertise.
No Industry Standards
There are currently lots of manufacturers that create IoT hardware and software. However, this sector is still poorly regulated, and there are few to no security and technology standards.
Some large companies like Google and Apple are trying to establish standards, but the compatibility of devices from different manufacturers is still minimal.
IoT Systems May Generate too Much Data
According to the Data Economy, healthcare will generate more data than any other sector by 2025, and almost half of this data will be stored in the cloud. However, storage isn’t a concern: what really can be a problem is overloading doctors with data. Already, some doctors say they don’t know what to do with all the data that comes from wearables.
It’s Hard to Integrate IoT Devices into Current Systems
Hospitals started optimizing their work with the help of technology long ago — for example, by moving to electronic health records. However, now most of these systems are outdated. They were created with old techniques, and some weren’t updated as frequently as they should have been.
Because IoT technologies are relatively new and are developing fast, it can be a challenge to integrate a large and complex IoT system into an existing solution.
Though IoT has its challenges, more and more hospitals, doctors, and individuals are incorporating IoT technologies into their day-to-day activities. The benefits of IoT devices outweigh the possible shortcomings by making hospitals more flexible, advanced, and regulated.
To avoid security breaches and incompatibilities, however, healthcare organizations and facilities should plan the whole integration process thoroughly - from choosing reliable devices and checking if they’re compatible with current systems to providing constant maintenance and performing regular security checks after IoT systems are integrated.
In addition to Healthcare, the IT sector offers a range of IoT products for applications in a number of industries, while the innovation never really stops. If you are a business looking out for IoT development, GoodFirms presents you a list of Top Internet of Things Development Companies to compare, research, and contact the best ones to further your business research.