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Cutting healthcare costs with Internet of Things

Healthcare providers need to understand how mobile will help to connect with wearables and other health devices, that are part of the Internet of Things and the resulting Big Data, to fully realise the potential of mobile for healthcare.

Over the summer, we wrote about how the NHS should be utilising mobile better to help improve efficiencies and productivity across the public health service, especially as the NHS works to become a 7-day service. Our white paper, ‘How Mobile Can Help Healthcare Providers’ also discussed the number of challenges that healthcare providers are facing with budget cuts and a growing population.

Healthcare providers need to understand how mobile will help to connect with wearables and other health devices, that are part of the Internet of Things and the resulting Big Data, to fully realise the potential of mobile for healthcare. This is reinforced by a recent report from Strategy Analytics looking at IoT and Big Data, predicting that healthcare analytics can help businesses cut costs by 25% to 35%, depending on individual use cases. This will help organisations to derive greater business value from their data assets and help drive improvements.

When implementing new technologies, it’s essential for healthcare providers to ensure that the technology will enhance patients’ lives, make clinician and administrative jobs easier and comply with government regulations, whilst handling cuts in budget.

Some of the IoT technologies the healthcare industry are looking at include wearables, apps, sensors and implanted devices. The hope is that these will help to streamline operational processes and cut healthcare costs. Adopting IoT can enable organisations to collect data from medical equipment to deliver smarter patient monitoring, join up fragmented departments and help with real-time analysis.

When Apple showcased watchOS 2 in September, it showcased an app from AirStripe, where expectant mothers could use a connected monitor at home to listen to their baby’s heartbeat and send data back to their doctor, in real-time. The firm also showcased the ability for doctors to view data from different patients within a hospital, which they could access from their Watch and securely send to different teams for analysis.

In the UK, the NHS is working closely with Philips around a prototype that continuously monitors patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in and out of the hospital. By collecting patient vital signs using a wearable sensor, the hope is to provide care providers with round the clock data on the patient’s well-being. Linked directly to a mobile app, this information can help care providers make adjustments to their care package if necessary.

Examples like this, showcasing the potential of IoT and big data, means that data can be analysed to facilitate informed, actionable responses to help deliver better care and even cut costs.

Some of the IoT applications that the healthcare sector include:

  • Medication management: With pills equipped with sensors, medical professionals can be alerted when medication isn’t being taken and take action to reduce unnecessary hospital and nursing admissions
  • Vitals monitoring: Medical professionals can track patient health more effectively to make more accurate diagnoses with access to more information
  • Inpatient care: “Smart beds” will alert professionals of patient activity
  • Asset tracking: Surgical instruments (such as medical sponges) can be outfitted with RFID tags so that sensors can track each item used in surgery
  • Obtaining patient data: With the use of beacon technology, doctors conducting rounds can securely receive relevant patient notes via a healthcare system, based on their microlocation and proximity to a particular patient

With an ageing population and an increase in comorbidity, healthcare providers will continue to feel the strain of providing patients with the quality of care they need. Therefore, it is vital that the industry pushes further to disrupt healthcare delivery through technology and enforce an improved status quo in the face of increasing pressure.

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