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Will IoT change the future of healthcare?

One of the biggest IoT benefits healthcare professionals have reported to date is the ability to use sensors to monitor and maintain medical devices.

By James Nunns

According to research, six in ten global healthcare organizations are already using the Internet of Things (IoT) and reaping the benefits from it.

Maybe you’ve seen your nurse accessing your X-ray data from their mobile device while at your bedside or patients set for surgery equipped with real-time location systems to inform loved ones when they’re out of surgery. That’s IoT in action.

Morten Illum, VP of EMEA at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

One of the biggest IoT benefits healthcare professionals have reported to date is the ability to use sensors to monitor and maintain medical devices. The use of IoT in healthcare is far more than a gimmick. Inventory management, for example, is changing the way hospitals operate and account for the equipment they use.

Imagine if every nurse in the world could save just five minutes on their daily shift, think what that would mean for efficiency gains, cost savings and overall quality of care. This can go a long way to help hospitals make better use of its resources in an age where they’re stretched. In turn, this allows nurses to spend more time treating patients, rather than searching for missing equipment. If technology can make this happen, it’s a no brainer, right?


Opportunities to innovate

Healthcare is one of the richest areas of opportunity for IoT and Boston Children’s Hospital is a great example of IoT in action. By creating an IoT alternative to an expensive and often unavailable device (spirometers), Shwetak Patel, Professor at the University of Washington, can manage chronic diseases. Patel’s algorithm can analyze sound recorded on any smartphone and replicate the function previously performed exclusively by spirometers that cost thousands of pounds.

IoT can reduce costs in the healthcare industry by providing lower cost alternatives to traditionally expensive devices; connecting devices to networks for improved accessibility; and capturing data with greater accuracy than ever before.

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Other ways IoT deployment is changing the way hospitals care for their patients is by deploying IoT to monitor equipment. Machines that do not function properly inform engineers through IoT connectivity. Those machines are fixed in an instant, which means treatments can go on as normal with minimal downtime.

Furthermore, sensors are deployed in laboratories, freezers and wards to monitor temperature. This allows staff to regulate the necessary temperatures throughout the premises.

Managing a hospital and its environments are being made easier through IoT but actual treatment of patients can also be improved substantially. For instance, implantable glucose monitoring systems, allows patients to have their glucose reading to be sent to their phone at certain intervals, allowing them to treat their diabetes much more accurately.


A move to mainstream, and overcoming IoT threats

With these kinds of results being seen, it’s no surprise to learn that IoT in healthcare is growing. By 2019, 87% of healthcare organizations will have adopted IoT technology in one form or another, but the risk of security, including data held by hospitals, remains a barrier that must be overcome.

An eye opening stat from the study was that 89% of early IoT adopters have already suffered an IoT related security breach. To prevent security fears casting a bigger shadow over IoT growth and innovation, threats from malware and human error must be neutralized.

While the security threat from IoT is real – it can also be combatted. Many hospitals that use network monitoring to collect advanced information from every device connected to their network are able to grant multiple levels of access to different users, which is definitive way to ensure only those that need access, receive it. This also allows organizations to see which device is doing what, and where the risks are, in real time.

Other threats, like botnet recruitment, which has been a recurring theme for IoT, needs to be mitigated through strong deployment processes and upgrades from legacy tech.

When discussing the returns of IoT, the results reported by organizations who have already deployed IoT were consistently higher than the estimations of those who are yet to get started. Adopters of IoT experienced improved efficiency and increased profitability – proving the technology’s value. However, this does not mean they can rest on their laurels as, with any new technology, teething pains are part of the process of making it work for them.

The rise of IoT in healthcare is impressive, but the industry has only scratched the surface of what is possible with this technology. A mix of good technology solutions will help the healthcare industry maintain this momentum and continue to push the boundaries of IoT innovation. The future benefits could be endless for healthcare when deploying IoT, not only operationally but through quality of care too.

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