21 Apr How IoT is becoming vital in Healthcare
This article was written by Erica Sundesten, a member of Akvelon’s Business Development Team.
As we continue heading into the digital age, IoT applications in healthcare are becoming more mainstream, delivering patient-centric solutions and saving lives. A rising focus on the innovative development of underlying technologies is boosting the industry’s growth. The global market for IoT in healthcare was estimated at $89.07 billion in 2021, and is projected to grow to $446.52 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 25.9%. IoT is driving the healthcare industry to transform the quality of care for individual patients and improve the overall population’s health. After the pandemic crisis, this industry is irreversibly digitizing, and IoT-related technologies are becoming an integral part of its future.
Nowadays, there are many inefficiencies waiting to be solved in the healthcare industry including:
- Serious losses caused by medical errors – costing approximately $20 billion a year. But patients can pay even more with prolonged illness, permanent disability, or even death. Approximately 100,000 people are dying each year due to medical errors
- Slow treatment process and delays in hospital discharges caused by the shortages in the workforce and its capacity. By 2030, there is expected to be a shortage of up to 104,900 doctors. This results in many patients being unable to get the proper care they need. This factor became especially important during the pandemic
- Expired infrastructure and inadequate medical services due to the misplacement of resources and underfunding
- Many treatments plans are unnecessarily failing to resolve
Solving these issues has been made possible by the emergence of IoT in the healthcare industry. They have a major role in transforming the industry and bringing benefits to the main stakeholders: patients, therapists, infrastructures and businesses.
IoT advantages for Patients – Patients get exceptional care
The healthcare industry is moving towards putting patients’ specific health needs and desired health outcomes into focus. IoT-enabled devices improve the treatment quality of patients and therefore their health. Patients can receive timely and superlative care delivered by their physicians. IoT enables shifts in care quality due to constant tracking of health conditions and patients’ adherence to treatment, as well as remote monitoring. Such increased attention is especially important for those who may need immediate medical help, especially elderly patients and those who live alone. Treatment can also become more cost-effective for patients due to early detection and intervention. And all these devices can communicate with each other and take important actions that would provide timely help to save lives.
IoT advantages for Doctors – Doctors can deliver their services better
IoT healthcare solutions provide doctors with full and timely information. By using wearables and other home monitoring equipment embedded with IoT, doctors can keep track of their patients’ health more effectively. Doctors are able to connect with the patients proactively and identify the best treatment process for them. The scope of the application of IoT devices is growing with the development of technology and the emergence of new niches in preventive medicine, diagnostics, surgery and many more.
One good example is a device prototype that was developed by one of Akvelon’s engineers for the safe performance of endoscopic surgery and the training of new surgeons.
Endoscopic surgery was an impossible and unbelievable dream 20 years ago but today it is widely used in almost all areas of modern medicine. Endoscopic surgery helps avoid large traumatic operative accesses, just a few small holes so that the surgeon can remove the cancer and avoid a severe recovery of the patient after the intervention. But despite the sufficient time for such interventions, unfortunately, in modern endoscopic surgery there are some difficulties: lack of tactile control, absence of clear level of pathology, difficulties in the visual recognition of anatomical structures, difficulties of beginner surgeons in intracavitary anatomical orientation. All these can lead to intraoperative complications and diverse damage to internal tissues and organs.
One of Akvelon’s engineers, in collaboration with the team of doctors and consultants, found the way to create the first prototype of a device named Arduino for the safe performance of endoscopic surgery and the training of beginning surgeons. The main components of the device are micro-sensors equipped with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a potentiometer – to determine the position of the pointer in the body of the patient across all three planes. The solution was implemented using Python, C# and Arduino as a controller. The endoscopic pointer took on the overcoming of famous complications, which can lead to irreversible consequences for the patient. The pointer determined the location of the surgeon’s instrument in the human body and displayed the point of the current position of the instrument on the screen of the monitor with the RCT image, based on the coordinates of the sensors, so in this way the risk of unacceptable manipulation in problems with visual contact should be reduced. Thus the Arduino prototype helps to avoid the risk of unacceptable manipulation caused by the lack of visual contact during the operation.
IoT advantages for Healthcare Infrastructure – Improving operational efficiencies
The application of IoT in healthcare can also improve the productivity and workflows of healthcare professionals. This results in reducing emergency room wait time, unnecessary hospitalization, enhancing drug management, ensuring the availability of critical hardware, and tracking medical equipment, hospital staff, and inventory. Such services as building maintenance, personnel, transportation, and similar can become more cost-effective when IoT technologies are in place.
There is one more player that benefits from the advancements of wearable devices – insurance companies. IoT-connected intelligent devices provide health insurers with many opportunities to detect fraud claims and identify prospects for underwriting.
IoT advantages for Businesses and Investors – Creating investment opportunity
Governments and investors are turning to tech companies to provide IoT solutions for long-term sustainable healthcare — and for good reason. Though nowadays the cost of implementing IoT technologies is high, the successful results of using it in healthcare has created high demand. Additionally, proper investments in IoT provide a return of health outcomes in a very short time.
The global market of IoT in healthcare is increasing steadily, and wearable technology is expected to be the main driver of its growth. The global market of medical wearables is forecasted to grow significantly between 2021 and 2026, going from 20.1 billion U.S. dollars to 83.9 billion.
Top healthcare IoT companies are advancing at a rapid pace and are vying for opportunities to further this growth.
Technology advancements and restraints
Moreover, various technologies that are underlying IoT also play an important role in propelling the market further. The AI healthcare market is expected to grow up to $39.5 billion by 2026, that’s about over 6x from its current valuation. Additionally, the huge amount of data generated by IoT devices opens up immense opportunities to transform healthcare. Integration of artificial intelligence with IoT in healthcare contributes to the development of new solutions and enhances decision-making.
Akvelon’s team of experienced AI and machine learning software engineers has already helped several healthcare companies leverage AI technology to improve their processes and patient experience. Our healthcare clients apply machine learning and AI in big ways to process and analyze large volumes of patient and provider data. We also empower them to leverage forecasting for next-gen applications such as predictive diagnostics.
For instance, one of our clients partnered with us to create an end-to-end healthcare data analytics and research system. Their go-to-market strategy required a platform that de-identifies and processes PHI patient data from different file formats, like CSV, and predicts the diagnosis based on doctors’ notes and medical terms. We worked with them to design and build the product from scratch and train the out-of-the-box machine learning models using real patient data.
We delivered a fully scalable, serverless, HIPAA-compliant platform that processes >1GB of patient data per hour with top performance. With our machine learning model training, the client has seen a +25% increase in prediction accuracy compared to the out-of-the-box model results. The uniqueness of the product and fast time-to-value allowed them to be the first to enter their specific niche at a commercial level.
Simply put, IoT is a device (or a network of devices) that is connected to the internet, and may transmit a continuous stream of data. IoT devices can collect health metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and more from patients who are not physically present in a healthcare facility, eliminating the need for patients to travel to providers or collect it themselves.
We can group IoT devices in healthcare on the basis of component, the market of application, or the end-user:
In fact the full list of IoT devices in healthcare is very diverse. Here are some most widespread and remarkable applications:
- Remote Temperature Monitoring for Vaccines
- Glucose monitoring
- Remote Patient Monitoring
- Connected Inhalers
- Heart Rate Monitoring
- Robotic Surgery
- Connected Contact Lenses
- Mental Health Monitoring
- Hand hygiene inspection
- Testing of Blood Coagulation
- Air-Quality Sensor
- Contact Lenses with IoT Connectivity
- Depression Monitoring
- Sensors that can be digested
Accurate and real-time data collection guarantees enhanced decision-making. The process of data flow basically consists of 4 stages:
As technology develops, new risks emerge. Data security is one of the major restraints of IoT in healthcare. IoT devices can be highly susceptible to cyberattacks, and the Personal Health Information (PHI) of both patients as well as doctors may be compromised. The integration of cloud computing made real-time monitoring possible, but also has made IoT networks even more vulnerable to cyberattacks. To prevent any сyber threats, it is crucial to implement apt security measures. This issue is exacerbated by a workforce shortage in the сybersecurity area:
Akvelon has been helping our clients and the community bridge the talent gap. We see a clear path to value and employ a systematic approach:
- continuously retaining, upskilling, and training great talent
- sponsoring certification programs for our engineers
- fostering learning and knowledge sharing culture by creating specialized workgroups like our SecOps Think-and-Do Tank
- launching paid internship programs to nurture rare tech skill sets for potential future employees
- and more
This approach encourages our security and software engineers to transform individual experiences into collective knowledge, researching, innovating, and piloting ideas for the evolution of security best practices.
Therefore, IoT in healthcare reflects a particular dependence on underlying technologies and infrastructure — combining both Big Data and advanced analytics, connectivity, security, cloud computing, edge device management, and device interoperability. IoT empowers the healthcare industry with innovative advancements to become patient-centric, and provides an opportunity to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. An important question to ask now is how to scale and overcome hidden challenges of deploying IoT devices, ensure a reliable connection to cloud infrastructure, and provide ongoing security measures device management, network management, and logistics support. Akvelon contributes to the evolution of IoT in healthcare by transforming our individual hands-on experiences gained in numerous healthcare initiatives into collective knowledge, researching, innovating, and piloting ideas to attain predictable results for our clients.
This article was written by Erica Sundesten, a member of Akvelon’s Business Development Team.
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