Updated: Jul 31, 2019
IoT, underpinned by data, devices, and connectivity, has the potential to disrupt the healthcare sector, paving the way for a decentralised system that benefits clinicians, while prioritising patient needs, expectations, and demands
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing how healthcare is delivered and received, and providing strategic opportunities in this growing data-driven and consumer-centric world. Currently 80% of doctors use smartphones and medical apps in the provision of healthcare, and apps and smart wearables are providing consumers with greater access to healthcare services. The implementation of IoT may also unlock significant cost benefits, with projected run rates of $68 billion AUD by 2030. In this way, IoT may benefit to curb healthcare costs, which are rising faster than economic and population growth. Here are 5 ways in which the adoption of the internet of health things (IoHT) can transform the healthcare industry as part of Everything IoT’s 2030 vision.
Increased Efficiency through Connected Devices
Hospitals and clinics have become increasingly efficient and effective due to the interoperability of connected devices. Connectivity of digital devices allows for direct channels of communication between sensors and devices, patients, and clinicians. In the clinic, this might translate to quicker response times for clinicians in the event of an inpatient emergency, or improved accessibility to health services during outpatient care. Device connectivity also provides opportunities for AI and robots in the automation of repetitive or simple procedures, such as inventory management and medical record upkeeping. This will free up hospital staff to have more face-to-face time with patients, and allow them to concentrate on more immediate tasks. In this way, connected devices serve to both decrease the burden on healthcare professionals while increasing the standard of care delivered to patients.
Connected and automated devices decrease the burden on healthcare professionals while increasing the standard of care delivered to patients
Convenient Access to Healthcare
A growing expectation, particularly of millennials, is having convenient and accessible healthcare services. Wearables and apps enable individuals to access data describing their health and wellbeing status, and access to healthcare professionals at the click of a button. One successful example is K Health, a smartphone app that hosts an AI-powered primary care platform. More and more, individuals are realising the convenience of using biometrics in optimising health and wellbeing, thus fostering the concept of the “quantified self.” Nowadays consumers monitor their vitals, body composition, and lifestyle choices in real-time. This trend can be reflected in the growing popularity of biosensors, a market that is projected to reach $9.9 billion USD by 2026. This growing market is quickly radicalising healthcare by opening new possibilities for monitoring health and providing opportunities for consumers to optimise their wellbeing.
Individuals are realising the convenience of using biometrics in optimising health and wellbeing, thus fostering the concept of the “quantified self”
The increase of consumer-centric behaviour, partly driven by the revolution of the "quantified self", is shifting the focus of healthcare to meet the specific needs of individual patients. The internet of things allows clinicians to aggregate data of individual patients to create a holistic understanding of an individual’s health and health outcomes. This data can be accrued longitudinally from smart wearables and apps, which become stores of digital information unique to patients. By understanding the data of the needs of individual patients using precision-based medicine, clinicians have the information to create bespoke treatment regimes that lead to better patient outcomes. The collection and analysis of longitudinal data also presents as an opportunity for IoHT to aid in the treatment of hereditary conditions or chronic diseases, which according to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, is predicted to provide the highest return on investment on individualised care.
Increasing customisation and consumer-centric trends is shifting the focus of healthcare to meet the specific needs of individual patients
IoT connectivity opens avenues for more direct communication channels between stakeholders, providing growth opportunities for collaboration through telehealth. Perhaps one of the most transformative aspects of IoT connectivity is providing telehealth and telesurgery services to remote environments. In these areas, specialists are few and in many cases patients travel thousands of kilometers to the nearest clinic. In the future, surgeons will be able to perform surgeries from anywhere in the world using 5G connected robots. This year, China has started clinical trials in telesurgery, and this technology will soon become a new standard.
In allied health services such as physical therapy, it is predicted that virtual reality (VR) and 5G capability will enable doctors and patients to be connected in real-time for remote consultations. Currently, 65% of interactions of healthcare facilities take place over mobile devices, and 80% of doctors agree that telemedicine is a better way to manage chronic diseases than traditional office visitations. In addition, scientists are taking advantage of technological advancements in the VR space to develop new ways for clinicians to provide rehabilitation therapies, including the treatment of previously non-rehabilitative chronic conditions. As an example, the UCLA bionics department has prototyped robot exoskeletons connected to VR to stimulate damaged neurons in stroke victims. This is just one example where new communication channels, given by the intersection of R&D, AI, and IoT, can change the future of cybertherapy and telehealth services.
Currently, 65% of interactions of healthcare facilities take place over mobile devices, and 80% of doctors agree that telemedicine is a better way to manage chronic diseases than traditional office visitations
Curbing Rising Costs
Healthcare costs are rising faster than economic growth and becoming increasingly unsustainable in both government expenditure and patient out-of-pocket costs. IoT technology has the potential to drastically reduce costs in many aspects of healthcare by transforming the healthcare experience in the clinic and at home. IoHT reduces costs by increasing clinical productivity and efficiency, which leads to more cost-effective treatment, shorter hospital stays, fewer examinations and lower subsequent incurred costs. At-home care or care delivered to locations geographically close to patients is a growing trend made possible by the expansion of IoT sensors. The shift towards closer, smaller and more intimate consumer-focussed sites are more cost-effective to maintain, with projected savings of 19-32% for some chronic conditions. This model of healthcare has added benefits, including greater accessibility and comfort for patients, and reduction in the number of hospital admissions. Together with IoT, AI curbs operational and equipment maintenance costs through automation of tasks and remote monitoring of devices, which add towards the efficiency of healthcare delivery.
IoHT reduces costs by increasing clinical productivity and efficiency, which leads to more cost-effective treatment, shorter hospital stays, fewer examinations and lower subsequent incurred costs.
The five growth areas identified in this article: device connectivity, consumer convenience, treatment customisation, telehealth communication, and healthcare associated costs are just some of the ways that IoT will transform the healthcare industry in preparation for 2030. We predict that the growing number of connected devices will place an emphasis on consumer-centric care and a push towards the decentralisation of the healthcare system, the latter being the currently most effective way to reduce costs, improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery, increase the standard of care through tailored treatment and accessibility, and boost patient satisfaction. By developing new ways to harness IoT technology, Australian startups have the opportunity to create a reality that reduces the strain on the current healthcare system, yet optimises patient outcomes and meets their demands.
Join us at the Everything IoT Health & Wellbeing Startup Forum on August 29th 5:00pm-9:30pm at the Sydney Startup Hub.
Joanna Ng is an avid science communicator and intern at Everything IoT
At Everything IoT, we believe the internet of things has the potential to transform the future of many industries. As part of our 2030 vision, we've identified 5 growth areas in which IoT will shape the future of Australia’s healthcare industry. Comment here to share your vision on the future of health tech in 2030.