Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Internet of Things (IoT) in Health Care

The Internet of Things (IoT) in the health care and medical industries is at an advanced stage in some areas and sorely lacking in others.

Some applications such as heart and other monitors provide major amounts of data to health care professionals. However, within hospital systems, silos of data and legacy equipment hamper the broad implementation of IoT in the sector — but that is changing fast. 

“There are more examples of IoT in health care/medical than one may realize, from sensors to collect temperature, blood pressure and other health metrics to multi-spectral sensors for X-ray, 2D, and 3D imaging,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group.

“It’s all about quickly getting health status, monitoring, trending, and analysis.”

5 IoT health care examples

Health care is one of the key sectors driving innovation in the Internet of Things. With so much of annual GDP absorbed in health, there is enough revenue around to invest plenty of R&D dollars in medical IoT. A large number of startups have entered the space. 

“IoT is undoubtedly transforming the health care industry by redefining the space of devices and people interaction in delivering health care solutions,” said Rajashekhar Karjagi, head of analytics solutions at Wipro.

“IoT has applications in health care that benefit patients, families, physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies.”

See more: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Market

1. Digital twins

Health care technology provider Ebenbuild has launched a research program to increase the odds of survival and recovery of those needing artificial ventilation due to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Developers optimized pre-trained artificial intelligence (AI) inference models to run on Intel hardware, accelerating performance of the computer vision cluster. A research program from Ebenbuild fuses patient data with machine learning (ML) algorithms and physics-based computer simulation fed by IoT sensors to build a digital twin of the lungs. By better understanding the human lung, physicians can personalize ventilation therapy to bring many more ARDS patients to a full recovery.

2. Ultrasounds

GE Healthcare provides the industry with intelligent devices, data analytics, applications, and services.

Its Versana Premier ultrasound system uses AI and IoT to provide two-dimensional images and sensitive flow signals.

It offers automated near-real-time image enhancement features, and labels the human tissues in an image with a method based on deep learning neural network technology. This makes it much easier for personnel without advanced training to use the equipment, helping to broaden access to high-quality medical resources in less-developed areas.

IoT innovations: 85 Top IoT Devices

3. Patient monitoring

A Montage Health hospital in Monterey, California, has augmented in-person patient monitoring with a HIPAA-compliant virtual patient observation solution from Wachter Healthcare Solutions.

The Nursing Observation and Virtual Assistant (NOVA) solution allows trained technicians to monitor up to 12 patients at once from a remote monitoring station, providing a virtual window into the condition and status of patients.

With its open architecture, featuring IoT gateways, workstations, and servers, NOVA can be implemented easily and scaled to help a health care system optimize patient care.

This system has reduced patient falls by 30%, increased patient satisfaction, and lowered staffing costs. NOVA is deployed primarily in telemetry units, where patients are under constant electronic monitoring, as well as in the COVID-19 unit and emergency department overflow rooms.

4. Wearables

Devices in the form of wearables — like fitness bands and other wirelessly connected devices, such as blood pressure and heart rate monitoring cuffs and glucometers — give patients access to personalized attention.

These devices can be tuned to monitor calorie count, exercise checks, appointments, blood pressure variations, and more.

“IoT has changed people’s lives, especially elderly patients, by enabling constant tracking of health conditions,” said Karjagi of Wipro. “This has a major impact on people living alone and their families. 

“On any disturbance or changes in the routine activities of a person, an alert mechanism sends signals to family members and concerned health providers.”

5. Equipment tracking

Wipro has also developed IoT technology for physicians and hospitals.

IoT devices tagged with sensors, for example, are used for tracking the real-time location of medical equipment, like wheelchairs, defibrillators, nebulizers, oxygen pumps, and other monitoring equipment. The deployment of medical staff at different locations can also be analyzed in real-time. 

Additionally, the spread of infections is a concern for patients in hospitals. IoT-enabled hygiene monitoring devices help in preventing patients from getting infected.

IoT devices assist health care providers with asset management, like pharmacy inventory control and environmental monitoring. For instance, they can check and help control refrigerator temperature and humidity.

Health insurance companies are also capturing data from IoT-connected intelligent devices for their underwriting and claims operations. This data enables them to detect fraud claims and identify prospects for underwriting. Insurers offer incentives to customers to use and share such data generated by IoT devices. They also offer discounts and rewards to those who follow certain routines and adhere to treatment plans and precautionary health measures. This benefits patients as well as insurance providers by reducing the number of claims.

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