We’ve blogged in the past about the exciting innovations the Internet of Things (IoT) is powering in the healthcare sector. The world of connected healthcare devices covers everything from wearable gadgets that measure the owner’s heart rate and activity levels, to highly sophisticated stationary devices within hospitals, such as chemotherapy dispensing stations.
In today’s blog, however, we’re focusing specifically on the difference that the IoT is making to healthcare delivered in patients’ homes. Here, the IoT has the potential to enable patients to be treated more efficiently, retain more independence, and ultimately live happier, healthier lives for longer – a crucial goal in an aging society.
At the sharp end of healthcare in the home – that is, monitoring ongoing conditions and patients’ vital signs, and delivering actual medical interventions – connected healthcare is enabling patients to be assessed and even treated remotely, in the comfort and security of their own homes.
Video chats are already familiar to anyone who uses Skype or a corporate video conferencing solution; in the healthcare sector, they can enable medical professionals to assess patients in their homes, providing routine check-ups and monitoring basic signs of health. So-called ‘telemedicine’ is already being used to great effect to provide follow-up care for patients who have experienced strokes or are being treated for cancer, for example, and is especially valuable in rural areas where medical professionals otherwise spend a huge amount of their time travelling between patients.
The next stage of innovation is adding to video chatting capabilities with connected devices such as cardio monitoring systems, which can collect data beyond that which a medical professional can view on-screen. And beyond that, there are devices such as insulin pumps, which can not only monitor patient data, but even automate the treatment process.
By integrating voice and video communication with patient data and delivery of medication, the entire care process can be optimised. Doctors and other medical professionals can comprehensively assess more patients in less time, while patients’ conditions are monitored more closely than ever before, with worrying changes to vital signs automatically alerted with the same efficiency that they would in a hospital.
It’s important to remember, however, that healthcare in the home isn’t just about taking care of patients with serious medical conditions and delivering medicine at the optimum time, important as all this is.
At the softer end of the spectrum are the kinds of ongoing monitoring, safety and security systems that can enable individuals to remain in their own homes for longer, without moving into specialist care facilities. For example, IoT smart home systems can monitor where an individual is within their home and which devices they are using, alerting family members if an incident takes place or an unusual pattern of activity is noticed. Such systems can also provide easier ways for individuals to contact caregivers for help as and when they need it. In turn, this gives family members greater peace of mind, and enables the elderly to retain their independence and autonomy for longer.
The future of connected healthcare in the home, then, is about integrating these multiple different technologies. It is not difficult to imagine an era in which individuals’ homes and medical devices, along with groups of people ranging from hospital and community-based caregivers to family members and friends, are connected together via sophisticated webs of data-sharing. In a society with an aging population, dealing with the challenges of delivering outstanding care to individuals across wide geographical areas, the possibilities are powerful.
The amount of data that lives on systems that are unconnected (or unreliably connected) to the network vastly outweighs the data that lives in the cloud.
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