Image credits: Peerbits

From communications and business to transport and education, there’s no denying the impact that digital transformation has made on our lives. Its effects are felt in healthcare too, with 3D printing and data analytics playing an increasingly larger role in the industry. In fact, the global market for AI and Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare is set to grow by 40% this year, reaching an expected value of €2.5 billion. This is no surprise, given the many benefits IoT offers. In this article, we list down the benefits of IoT in healthcare, and why such technology is a worthwhile investment.

Remote medical assistance

Telemedicine saw an increase in usage last year due to the pandemic which discouraged in-person visits. But thanks to remote patient monitoring tools, healthcare providers can hand out prescriptions and assist patients from afar, especially those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 like the elderly, or individuals with heart disease or asthma. Health data such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and blood glucose level are sent through a remote interface, and supplemented with synchronous virtual calls if needed. All this is made possible thanks to the connectivity of IoT.

Better data collection

Monitoring isn’t the only purpose of IoT in healthcare. It’s also used to collect patient data, which would have taken a huge amount of time and effort to collect manually. Researchers can use this data for a variety of purposes. One of these is predictive analytics, which models patient data to predict clinical outcomes. Predictive modelling helps forecast not just health conditions, but also patient preferences and even equipment maintenance. Aside from practical applications, medical data collected via IoT can also be used in academic research — to confirm or debunk theories and pinpoint new areas of interest. And with data gathering being mostly automated, error rates and outliers are drastically reduced. As such, IoT is indispensable not just in practical healthcare, but in medical research as well.

Lower healthcare costs

IoT helps reduce healthcare costs for both patients and providers. For one, IoT aids in better resource allocation for hospitals. Applications like RFID tags and real-time location systems facilitate inventory tracking, ensuring staff can devote more attention to patient care. Additionally, IoT eliminates the need for frequent hospital visits just to consult doctors, helping patients save money. This is an essential advantage, especially with COVID-19 forcing people to tighten purse strings. As evidenced by the ongoing pandemic, underdeveloped countries suffered far worse than their first-world counterparts. For instance, the Philippines has one of the world’s longest lockdowns, with the number of active cases reaching 193,476 as of April 16. Under such dire circumstances, cheaper healthcare thanks to IoT is invaluable.

Better disease management

A common application of IoT in healthcare is through wearables like smartbands that detect vital parameters in real-time. Whether you’re out on a jog or sleeping in bed, medical staff have constant access to your health statistics, even without visiting a clinic. And thanks to this 24/7 nature of remote patient care, IoT devices allow diseases to be detected even before you become aware of any symptoms. For instance, monitoring tools can notify health providers about your condition if you cross a certain health parameter threshold — like unusually high blood pressure. This means doctors can head off unwanted complications while the patient’s condition is still manageable. More advanced devices can even detect oxygen levels in the blood. This is a function popularised recently since low blood oxygen was found to be one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Through IoT, higher quality patient care can be delivered, even pre-emptively.

Article written by Jamie Rimbey

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