IoT & Healthcare - How IoT helps the medical industry with real-time remote monitoring of patients

December 12, 2022
IoT & Healthcare - How IoT helps the medical industry with real-time remote monitoring of patients


Digitization of every field is the norm now. With healthcare being one of the largest industries, maintaining manual records, filling forms, and printing out reports is now a thing of the past. Instead, digitized records, online forms, and e-reports have taken over.

But it doesn't stop there. Patient care is evolving as we speak. A major driving force in the digitization of healthcare is the Internet of things (IoT).

Did you know that the healthcare sector is currently one of the fastest-growing segments of the IoT market? Statistics forecast the Internet of medical things sector to be valued at $176 billion by 2026.

The rapid adoption of IoT in healthcare is due to its advantages to patients, practitioners, and healthcare centres. From real-time patient monitoring to automatic reporting, here's a preview of how IoT revolutionizes the medical industry.

Use of IoT in healthcare

Healthcare organizations worldwide are adopting or looking into IoT solutions. The Internet of Things addresses the gaps in the healthcare field and promises a patient-centric, data-based, and innovative future. IoT is currently in use for a wide range of applications, such as,

1. Remote patient monitoring

Earlier, patient monitoring would only happen after check-in at the hospital, where the doctor would monitor the vitals. However, with biosensors and IoT technology within, vitals such as heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, and so on can be monitored virtually and without delay.

This way, the doctors or practitioners can access the data through the cloud on a supported app. Providing advice, medications, or instructions based on real-time vitals is possible. It reduces any delay in treatment and allows earlier diagnosis of diseases and illnesses.

For instance, Philips devised a wearable biosensor during the pandemic, a 5-day single-use wearable patch. It transmitted respiratory and heart rates every minute. The social distancing helped doctors and patients stay safe.

2. Smart medical devices

Intelligent devices are game changers for the old and the young population alike. Apart from monitoring vitals, the devices can be designed to remind of medications, checkups, hospital visits, and food intake timings, to name a few. In addition, using IoT in such devices can help send push notifications to remind patients of a particular task or appointment.

Smart devices may also be set to record vitals such as blood glucose, oxygen, or hydration level over a specific period. Such personalized programming is a massive advantage of using the Internet of Things in medical devices. The doctors can also be alerted in the case of an emergency or deviating vitals.

These devices are manufactured using smartwatches, wristbands, or armbands. With the collected data over time, physicians can keep track of and identify the best treatment process and plan for the patient.

4. RFID and IoT technology

RF identification technology is a low-cost sensor that can be used on devices, patients, and hospital employees. The RFID tag is a sensor that can provide real-time information and monitoring when combined with IoT technology. The RFID tracking system involves tags and readers.

The tags transmit the information and can be applied to medical devices, employee cards, and patient hospital records. The RFID readers scan the cards and send the information to the cloud gateway. With a firewall to securely transmit and store data, the information stored in the RFID system includes the tag information such as name, expiration date, and real-time information on the object's location.

Hence, RFID can be used for medical inventory, to restock the proper medications, to identify them, and on employee tags to check their exit and entry. In addition, RFID tags can be applied to patient cards and medical devices to monitor their location within the hospital.

This way, any unusual behaviour or movement can be identified. The system also analyses data to determine staff schedules, patient and visitor data, equipment and workflow organization, and so on. These analytics can be visualized on a dashboard to gather insights into hospital management and staff performance.

4. IoT-assisted surgery and prosthetics

Did you know that the adoption of assisted surgery went from 1.5% in 2012 to 15.1% in 2018? Using IoT technology, robotics can be manipulated through a set of commands that may be live or pre-programmed. Robotic surgeons may also communicate with doctors and nurses and are widely used in healthcare to minimize the slightest amount of human error. Microsurgeries and assisted minimally invasive surgeries are some examples.

Prosthetic development is a complicated industry due to the specifications and personalizations required based on the patient. IoT can help with the high variability in the size of the lost body part and patient requirements. In addition, IoT-aided devices can help with better response, design, and performance of the prosthetic.

Challenges of IoT in healthcare

1. Integration and compliance with protocols

Due to the sensitivity of the data and country-based regulations, implementing IoT in healthcare requires adherence to protocols. For instance, some countries require healthcare organizations to be HIPAA compliant, which involves adherence to the rules and regulations of such protocols. The protocols may differ based on region, and the implementation of IoT for healthcare in such cases would have to be scrutinized thoroughly.

2. Data security

Due to the increased number of devices involved in an Internet of Things Ecosystem, the data obtained is continuous and from different locations. As a result, the devices themselves may be susceptible to attacks, or the data compiled in the cloud may be attacked by hackers. Given the enormous amount of data collected, the security of IoT devices must be ensured, and additional measures can be applied to enhance security further.

The collected data may also be subjected to rules such as GDPR and CCPA that protect patients' personal information. As a result, additional costs might be associated with boosting security and ensuring that the data collected comply with data protection laws.

3. Data overload and segregation

IoT devices across different areas and sectors of the hospital collect a large chunk of data. This data needs to be segregated and viewed for proper utilisation and analysis. Therefore, the hospital may have to invest in additional software or pay for built-in features segregating and showing precise data for accurate results.

4. Diversity of protocols and internet disruptions

There is a wide difference in the communication protocols used by different devices and manufacturers. Therefore, no single standard for communication protocols can add to the complexity of performance engineers. The right testing tools may also need to be selected based on the protocols. Some examples of protocols include HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport), Protocol Buffers, and so on.

An IoT ecosystem also uses a data connection to upload data to the cloud. Wifi usually confers the data connection, and in some cases, a cellular connection is provided using eSIMs. However, in the event of technical failures or a lack of network, there might be data transmission issues or the loss of recording sensitive data. Hence, additional measures need to be taken to ensure the smooth working of IoT devices, even in the event of any disruption.

Conclusion: What's in store for the future of IoT in healthcare?

IoT is being explored and implemented in the field of healthcare. IoT already provides the industry with a robust, comprehensive form of treatment through sensors, intelligent medical devices, and so on. However, using IoT in healthcare has challenges that can be addressed through thorough research and finding the right vendors whose priorities align with your organization’s requirements.

In the long term, the advent of IoT devices will continue to create better wearables, data collection, identification, and data management systems. Ultimately, IoT for healthcare can pave the way for the future of digitally coordinated treatment.