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IoT in Healthcare: How Connected Devices are Shaping the Medical Field

November 8, 2023

Healthcare is becoming smarter in front of our eyes. This is most evident in the field of IoT in healthcare, where, in recent years, we have seen the emergence of technological innovations such as smart hospitals, medical devices for real-time data analysis, and feature-rich wearable health trackers. But the IoT development doesn’t even think to stop there.

Forecasts for the IoT healthcare market project surge from $128 billion in 2023 to an impressive $289 billion by 2028. That’s huge and tells us that IoT attracts large investments that further fuel innovation in this sphere. Considering the global aging population, the demand for IoT medical devices that monitor patient vitals will only grow. So it would be a big mistake not to seize the opportunity. To help healthcare organizations realize the potential of the Internet of Things, in this article, we will cover what it is, how it impacts healthcare, its benefits, and challenges.

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What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices embedded with IoT sensors and connected to the Internet to interact with each other. These devices collect, process, and exchange vast amounts of data with other systems or devices to optimize operations, enhance user experiences, and enable real-time decision-making.

IoT in healthcare, also known as IoMT solution or Internet of Medical Things, takes this concept and tailors it exclusively for the medical field. So, it’s a network of medical devices, software, and tech solutions that can monitor patient health, manage treatments, and even assist in surgical procedures. Also, IoT devices in healthcare are often designed with industry standards in mind, which adds to the accuracy, reliability, and compliance with health regulations. 

They range from wearable health monitors that track vital signs like heart rate and blood oxygen levels to more complex systems. For instance, smart hospital beds can adjust themselves to improve patient comfort and prevent bedsores.

IoT in Healthcare

The Transformative Impact of IoT in Healthcare

The ability of IoT medical devices to gather and analyze massive amounts of real-time data holds huge potential for refining healthcare practices and bringing medicine closer to patients. IoT replaces part of the visits to the doctor with telemedicine solutions and online consultations, saving time and costs. Patients don’t need to go to the hospital without special necessity and spending hours in queues. Instead, they can easily and conveniently get consultations and treatment online and even do medical tests remotely. 

Due to IoT technology, doctors and medical personnel can view and analyze patient reports, ongoing treatments, and medical histories to provide more personalized and effective care. 

Generally, all sorts of patient monitoring systems equipped with IoT sensors continuously track health conditions and provide real-time health status. If certain parameters go beyond the norm, they can communicate with other devices to take necessary actions that would help save someone’s life. At the same time, this data is sent to the cloud so that doctors can swiftly respond to an emergency situation and provide timely care.

Besides improved patient outcomes, the application of IoT in healthcare increases the productivity of medical staff and streamlines hospital workflows. Modern IoT applications help better manage patient data, schedule appointments with physicians, and automatically send health notifications and reminders to patients. So, the game-changing impact of IoT in healthcare is real and beyond doubt.

Impact of IoT in Healthcare

Applications of IoT in Healthcare

IoT reshapes traditional, old-fashioned treatment practices, offering new approaches and opportunities to remove shortcomings in the healthcare system, like outdated processes, supply chain inefficiencies, and lack of interoperability. We’ve picked the most impactful IoT applications in healthcare capable of driving positive changes in the sector.  

Smart Medical Devices

Patients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension can enjoy the benefit of IoT in healthcare through wearable devices that monitor corresponding health metrics. These devices, ranging from fitness trackers and smartwatches to temperature and smart blood pressure monitors, collect essential data such as oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. This information offers insights into how lifestyle impacts their condition, helping individuals make healthier choices. Upon detecting irregular health indicators, wearables alert users to potential problems and recommend how to deal with them.

Smart Medical Devices

Glucose monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and other home-based IoT devices, for example, can automatically record readings and send this information to healthcare providers. This real-time data enables doctors to alter treatment plans and make medication adjustments, often without the need for an in-person visit.

IoT healthcare companies continuously work on improving devices to make them more accurate and user-friendly so that patients of all ages can easily introduce them into their daily lives.

Hospital Operations and Asset Management

IoT helps medical personnel spend less time on management and routing tasks. Asset tracking is an area that can benefit a lot from applications of IoT in the healthcare industry. IoT-enabled devices monitor the location and status of basic supplies and expensive medical equipment like wheelchairs, defibrillators, and portable monitors. Although it might seem mundane, knowing the status and location of items can minimize costs and efficiency losses, especially when staff are overburdened and unable to find the necessary equipment. IoT can save time, resources, and potentially lives when deployed properly.

Energy management that is more sustainable and efficient is possible thanks to IoT. Imagine how much energy and operational costs hospitals can save with smart sensors and meters that control lighting, heating, and air conditioning systems in real-time. In doing so, healthcare facilities can help create a greener healthcare infrastructure.

Managing patient flow, especially during peak times, is not an easy task, but IoT can help here, too. Hospitals can better manage patient admissions by using IoT devices for patient flow optimization, minimizing waiting times and overcrowding, which improves patient experience.

Telemedicine and Remote Monitoring

Smart connected devices can constantly monitor patients’ vitals, such as heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, and more, outside the hospital setting. This is a true relief for chronically ill patients who now don’t need to visit hospitals frequently for routine checkups. Most of their follow-ups, as well as the continuous oversight over their health conditions, can be well managed remotely.

Remote Patient Monitoring

While nothing can replace face-to-face experience, doctors can track patient’s conditions through remote patient monitoring tools and provide medical advice through video consultations. A continuous flow of relevant information allows for personalized care plans, as physicians can adjust treatments based on the received data. Telemedicine solutions offer convenient online consultations for those living in remote areas and elderly patients while also easing the load on healthcare facilities.

Medication Management

Adherence to prescribed drug regimens can mean the difference between recovery and relapse. This challenge has been addressed by an IoT application in healthcare: wearables and devices that remind patients to take their medications on time. For example, smart pill bottles have sensors to track when the bottle is opened and send patients notifications if they miss a dose. Caregivers can also receive alerts on a patient’s missing dose to provide timely support and ensure the continuity of care. By analyzing the patient’s compliance history, doctors can understand the effectiveness of prescribed drugs and adjust treatment plans.

IoT in Healthcare: Real-life Examples

IoT in medical services allows for improving customer experience and saving time. So, it’s not surprising that many companies invest in IoT technology to develop software and devices to bring even more convenience, simplicity, and accessibility to the sector. We have selected the IoT in healthcare examples that have found wide use and made patients’ lives comfortable. 

  • Kinsa Smart Thermometers collect information on individuals’ temperature and send it to a mobile app via Bluetooth. The application keeps the history of temperature records and can thus help identify health trends and potential outbreaks. 
  • Inspiren’s iN Ecosystem. This system intends to improve patient experience and their stay in the hospital. It uses a network of sensors, analytics tools, computer vision, and other technology to track various factors such as room visits by staff, patient movement, and even the time since the last interaction with a healthcare professional. Thus, their IoT-based ecosystem helps create more responsive and attentive care experiences.
  • Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) System is an IoT device that provides real-time glucose level monitoring for diabetes management. It consists of a small sensor that measures and wirelessly sends glucose readings to a smart device, alerting users to potential episodes of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia that require quick corrective actions.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare

Developing devices with sensors to boost the quality of care, medical adherence, and patient experience is a high-tech solution to very human problems. It can provide doctors with unparalleled insight and help deliver timely care, but this comes with the challenges healthcare organizations should be aware of before adopting the IoT solution.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare

Data Security. Cybersecurity challenges in using IoT in healthcare are very relevant and sharp. Medical patient information is highly confidential, and its transmission over the Internet increases the risk of breaches. As the number of connected devices that gather and exchange data grows, so does the risk of data leakage. That’s why healthcare organizations should build high protection of patient records to strengthen IoT security in healthcare, which can be achieved by implementing the following security measures:

  • Encrypt information 
  • Implement secure communication protocols
  • Set different levels of access to information
  • Use multi-factor authentication

Interoperability. One of the biggest problems in healthcare is siloed data that hinders comprehensive patient care. Plus, many IT infrastructures are running on legacy systems that complicate seamless integration with modern digital solutions and consequently the information exchange between different platforms. As a result, hospitals can’t benefit from IoT solutions without standardized data-sharing protocols. One viable way to solve this issue is the FHIR standard, which helps achieve data interoperability and easy information sharing.

Ethical Concerns. As IoT technology and its use cases spread, it makes ethical considerations difficult. While IoT devices simplify patients’ lives and reduce the need for in-person visits, their data can be easily collected and analyzed by third parties. Healthcare organizations should establish clear policies so patients understand how their data is used and stay informed about what information is being collected. This way, patients can enjoy the benefits of IoT while hospitals ensure their privacy is upheld.

Regulatory Landscape of IoT in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare sector is highly regulated. When deploying IoT medical devices, hospitals should ensure their solutions comply with different regional and international regulations connected to patient data protection, medical device certification, and healthcare standards.

IoT regulations

FDA Guidelines

The FDA has been striving to strengthen the cybersecurity of IoT devices in healthcare since 2005. Recognizing the growing usage of medical devices, the FDA’s most recent draft guidance expects security across the entire product lifespan. 

So, manufacturers should now be able to protect and address any vulnerabilities of their products from initial design to post-market surveillance to ensure proper device functionality and patient safety. They must submit detailed plans and prove that the device can be updated, patched, and protected from any potential security issues. As manufacturers implement stronger security controls into their devices from the start, healthcare organizations and patients can gain confidence in the security of IoT devices.

International Regulations

Most countries have rigorous regulatory and approval processes for IoT in healthcare before devices enter the market and can be used by hospitals and patients.

In the EU, the Medical Device Regulation (MDR) and In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) requirements mandate consideration of IoT medical device cybersecurity. Every medical equipment manufacturer seeking to market products in Europe must meet those requirements to ensure their devices are safe, function as expected, and are protected from security threats. The Medical Device Coordination Group (MDCG) regulatory body publishes detailed guidance documents to direct manufacturers on how to meet all the requirements of MDR and IVDR, specifically regarding cybersecurity measures.

IoT in Healthcare: Future Trends 

The impact of IoT in healthcare is already huge and is expected to grow even more in the coming years. As connected devices become more sophisticated and widely adopted, the future of IoT in healthcare is bright and will bring even more transformative changes to the sector. Let’s take a glimpse at what trends we can expect to see in the near future. 

Healthcare data analytics

With more data being generated by IoT devices, hospitals will realize the growing need to analyze this information as soon as possible so that decisions can be made based on the most relevant information. That’s why we will see an increased demand for real-time analytics platforms that can help healthcare organizations turn large volumes of patient data into actionable insights. Big data analysis and machine learning algorithms are widely applied to empower better medical decisions.

AI-Integrated IoT Healthcare Systems

When it comes to combining AI and IoT in healthcare, chances are together they will improve the way doctors approach diagnostics and disease detection. One of the key powers of AI in diagnostics is the ability to analyze a great deal of patient health data gathered by IoT devices quickly and with high precision. Traditional diagnostic methods rely on human interpretation, which can be prone to errors. With such valuable diagnostic capabilities at the early stages of diseases, doctors can intervene earlier to prevent disease progression before it becomes a serious health-threatening issue.

5G’s Impact on Healthcare IoT

5G can bring advancements in remote patient monitoring, communication with doctors, and telemedicine due to high-speed, low-latency Internet connection. This technology provides faster access to health information, improves telehealth services, and supports remote surgeries enabled by high-quality video streaming. IoT devices, such as an internal defibrillator, can immediately alert ER cardiologists to be ready for an incoming patient, with complete information received by the device. 

IoT in the Healthcare Industry: Final Thoughts 

IoT has already deeply penetrated the medical industry through monitoring systems, smart wearables, and medical devices. The application of IoT in healthcare allows medical employees to reduce costs, improve treatment outcomes, and rely on technology for monitoring patient’s health status. The examples of existing IoT in the healthcare market are vast, and its diversity and impact are only set to grow in the future. Medical practitioners who embrace IoT today will win tomorrow. 

So, if you want to join this shift to more connected healthcare, our team of experts can help. We’re a healthcare software development company offering a pool of IoT software development and IT consulting services that deliver as per client requirements. Contact us today to be among the first to benefit from IoT. 

Written by
CEO at Relevant
Andrew Burak is the CEO and founder of Relevant Software. With a rich background in IT project management and business, Andrew founded Relevant Software in 2013, driven by a passion for technology and a dream of creating digital products that would be used by millions of people worldwide. Andrew's approach to business is characterized by a refusal to settle for average. He constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible, striving to achieve exceptional results that will have a significant impact on the world of technology. Under Andrew's leadership, Relevant Software has established itself as a trusted partner in the creation and delivery of digital products, serving a wide range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to promising startups.

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