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IoT in Healthcare

The digital health revolution is divided into four parts, namely:

1. Access to Information (Internet Age)

2. Mutual access (social network)

3. Reach out to yourself (quantify yourself through mobile and wearable health technology)

4. Understand everyone (subsequent development and application of big data)

Interestingly, this is actually a five-part digital revolution, and the last one isn't as noisy as the first four. It's even a bit silent, but there's good reason to believe it's critical to the future of medicine, healthcare, and health. It's about connecting everything.

This connection is often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), and in a practical sense, it can bring the entire digital health revolution together. Simply put, IoT is connecting the physical world around us with the virtual world of the internet. The physical world refers to household appliances such as coffee makers or thermostats; cars, industrial machinery, buildings, bicycles, plants, animals, medical devices, and of course, the human body.

Although the concept is simple, the scope and impact of this development is complex, and many other terms have been coined to describe the phenomenon. Some of these include machine-to-machine communication (M2M), ubiquitous computing, smart services, and the Industrial Internet of Things. Perhaps the truth is that no one term can fully describe what is going on, so we coined new terms to understand it in our own context.

Putting the jargon aside, the opportunity to connect humans to all the objects that can have a positive or negative impact on their health can play a huge role in improving quality of life, chronic disease management, and life-saving interventions that will truly change the numbers The ability of technology to have a large-scale impact on healthcare. First, let's look at the makeup of the basic IoT ecosystem:


IoT Ecosystem

The IoT ecosystem can seem very complex and confusing, especially to those who are not in the tech industry. In fact, even if you work in technology, IoT has many challenges and issues around interoperability. So instead of focusing on the vast ecosystem of sensors, objects, and devices, it is easier to start by understanding the three main components of the IoT ecosystem:

data collection:

This is basically done by a device or hardware component that collects data from various sensors before sending it to the network. In the field of health, it used to be some basic function, such as measuring the amount of exercise through a smartphone or wearable device. However, as indicators such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen, and disease-specific indicators such as blood sugar are about to enter the mainstream, devices will become increasingly complex.

data transmission:

This is how data is sent from a device, sensor or object over the network. Technically, this can be wired or wireless, but in reality, the development of wireless networks is driving the development of the Internet of Things. These wireless networks can be classified as cellular, satellite and WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and RFID, among others.

data analysis:

This is all data collected from devices, objects and sensors transmitted over the network and organized, queried and interpreted to trigger responses or alerts to the body. This is an important area of innovation, as big data and real-time analytics are a real competitive high ground for those looking to develop connected health IoT solutions in healthcare, where analytics must be very accurate and secure , because this is designed for patients.

IoT in Healthcare

So, how can IoT be used to improve healthcare? In fact, the potential uses of connected technologies in healthcare are enormous. However, we can group the most prominent healthcare applications of IoT into four broad categories:

1. Health and Wellbeing

Healthcare is shifting from focusing on disease to focusing on health and thus disease prevention. The most prominent examples are wearable devices that track basic activities and, through more advanced technology, can measure breathing patterns, skin conductance, ambient light, and skin temperature. Apple's recently launched smartwatch points us a way to a more advanced world that, in the near future, will even allow for non-invasive blood sugar measurements. This measurement information can be used by apps and linked to HCP and EHR/EMR (Electronic Health/Medical Records) through support programs, and even as part of clinical trials through ResearchKit.

We can already track and monitor babies’ vital signs while they sleep, through the use of smart diapers, analyze urine, check hydrate levels, and identify signs of urinary tract infections; connected and gamified toothbrushes can motivate and inspire families to keep their teeth healthy; For seniors, smart monitoring systems can allow seniors to live independently: monitor activity, analyze behavior and monitor issues such as falls, and automatically alert caregivers and medical services.

2. Patient support

A clear opportunity is better support for patients and their families who are treating their illnesses and taking medications. This opportunity seems especially real when faced with the challenges of chronic disease and an aging population. Some early developments, such as electronic pill dispensers, can remind you to take your medicine on time and help simplify complex medication regimens, alerting patients and caregivers. It has also inspired management interventions such as electronic bottle caps that can monitor the amount of pills or liquid left in the bottle and alert patients when they need to take their medication. More sophisticated interventions, such as connected devices: inhalers and spirometers, electrocardiograms, blood oxygen, blood pressure devices, etc., can improve the continuous measurement, monitoring, education and support structures of patients and caregivers to improve clinical outcomes. These can provide real-time information exchange between patients, healthcare professional services and caregivers and families.

More advanced developments include microchip drug delivery technology. The chip can be inserted under the skin and administered a controlled dose of the drug at the right time. Also in development are "biomonitoring drugs," digital medicines that will contain a tiny sensor that can convey important information about when a patient takes a drug and how the body responds. Proteus is already working with Otsuka and Novartis to develop the technology.

At EarthWorks, a cardiopulmonary disease system is currently being designed that combines patient data from connected devices such as smart scales, blood pressure, and oximeters with HCP systems, caregivers, and families to support patients in real-time and enable the integration of healthcare services. Quick response.

3. Improve professional medical services

IoT can also support better medical services. For example, ECall (an interoperable, harmonized in-vehicle emergency call system), which should be available in all new cars and vans in the EU by October this year, recognizes that a vehicle has been involved in an accident and calculates the severity of the accident , and communicate the location and direction of travel of the accident. This information is then passed on to Traffic Information and Emergency Services as appropriate. As vehicles integrate with other devices, we're not far from communicating personal health records through this system, which will allow for faster, better responses that save lives.

IBM is bringing sensor and networking technology to hospitals, working with OhioHealth to develop a system that monitors handwashing in real time to reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAI). This has resulted in 90% compliance with handwashing protocols, a 20% increase from before, and IBM is also working on a range of predictive IoT solutions.

Project Artemis, developed by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, allows subtle changes in hospital-infected infants to be detected 12 to 24 hours before any external signs appear. Other projects in development aim to detect complications in brain-injured patients, stroke patients and critically ill patients in intensive care units before testing them for HCP.

4. Data analysis

IoT is particularly well suited for big data in healthcare. Three main dimensions of data describe this well: volume, variety, and velocity. Quantity refers to the absolute size of data that can be obtained through devices, sensors, systems, and objects capable of transmitting data. Variety describes the number of various data sources that the platform can accept, and the variety of all these data will be very powerful. Speed describes the transfer speed, and in many cases this will be real time. When we collect data at scale, we can leverage powerful computer systems such as IBM Watson to help build sustainable healthcare systems, collaborate to improve care and outcomes, and increase access to healthcare.


In such a short article, it is impossible to truly describe the opportunities IoT offers in healthcare. For example, we failed to cover some of the key issues in realizing the IoT vision, such as data integrity, data quality, security, and compliance. However, just as the connectivity of people through global communication platforms has revolutionized the way we see and interact with the world, so is the ability to connect all aspects of health and medical improving people's lives.

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