Why healthcare providers should ‘prescribe’ the IoT

One of the exciting things about today’s society is seeing advancements in research and technology being applied in so many areas of life. This is particularly true of the intersection between technology and healthcare.

One converging technology that is gaining significant momentum in healthcare is the internet of things (IoT), which has wide-ranging benefits for patients, care providers, and facilities. Many companies, including the consulting and professional services firm PwC, are now rolling out offerings in the IoT space. For example, PwC’s Connected Solutions allow organizations to harness the power of connectivity and data to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and create better experiences for customers and employees.

IoT Can “Cure” Healthcare Challenges

The IoT encompasses the networking of objects and machines, which can include vehicles, home appliances, and a variety of work and personal devices. By connecting these objects, companies can send and receive data throughout the network, providing insights that help businesses make intelligent decisions.

The IoT is gaining popularity in the healthcare market. The three most common healthcare uses are in monitoring and maintenance; remote control and operation; and location-based services. The IoT can be used to streamline care for patients, facilitate more effective monitoring and procedures, and maximize access to location-based healthcare services for rural patients.

Applications in Healthcare

The best way to understand the benefits of the IoT in healthcare is to examine the use cases. The following examples illustrate how the IoT is rapidly improving healthcare globally.

Emergency Room Wait Times: It is well-known that people have to wait for attention in emergency rooms, especially if they come in with minor health issues. The IoT is changing long wait times in some emergency rooms.

For example, Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City partnered with GE Healthcare to effectively track bed occupancy using 15 different metrics to assess patients’ needs and direct them to the proper medical department more quickly, keeping things moving smoothly and efficiently in the emergency room. Using biometric technology, PwC’s IoT solution can quickly identify the location of medical equipment and people (and how long they’ve been waiting), helping to mitigate crowded ER situations. It can monitor foot traffic and manage lines of people, while complying with data privacy regulations.

Telehealth: One of the challenges faced by health care professionals is ensuring that patients have access to the care services they need, especially in rural areas and among patients with limited mobility. Telehealth, which uses the IoT to monitor patients remotely, reduces the need for in-person consultations and gives healthcare providers access to data to ensure patients are doing well. This improves access to healthcare in remote locations, while saving money and time.

Proactive Technology Monitoring: Like any organization that uses hardware and software to function, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are at risk for problems with their technology. This can come from outdated software, inadequate security protections, and other causes. Fortunately, the IoT is helping to solve this problem with predictive maintenance: monitoring hardware and software and alerting hospital staff when technology needs attention — before there’s a breakdown.

Track assets and locate people: In order to keep hospitals and other care facilities running smoothly, it is crucial to track assets like medical equipment and inventory. With so much changing at a rapid pace in a care facility, it can be hard to track these assets and find their locations when they’re needed. It’s also important to be able to locate staff and patients when they require assistance.

Fortunately, the IoT is helping to solve this problem with location systems that work in real time to manage asset tracking and keep the facility operating smoothly. PwC’s patent-pending Indoor Geolocation Platform utilizes battery-powered connected trackers, which are placed on key assets to identify the location of equipment within several feet.

Drug Management: Adherence to medication protocols can mean the difference between getting better or getting worse for patients. Unfortunately, many patients are at risk of forgetting to take their medications or taking improper dosages. An IoT application helps track patients’ prescriptions, including ensuring that patients receive the proper dosages at the appropriate times.

Chronic Illness Management: Patients with chronic illnesses often feel overwhelmed with the need to manage their diseases, symptoms, and treatments. This can keep patients from doing what is needed to improve their health. The application of IoT that uses wearable technology, analytics, and mobile connectivity can help patients with chronic illnesses better manage their conditions, including by giving care providers instant access to patient data for analysis.

Today, the application of IoT technologies in healthcare is improving not only the care provided to patients, but also the management of the business side of healthcare organizations. As this technology expands and advances, it’s expected that the IoT will develop more healthcare applications. These will help increase work productivity, save money, facilitate new business models, and maximize collaboration with care providers and patients. For more information on PwC’s Connected Solutions, visit here.