“Personalized and Connected health, made possible by IoT advancements, has the potential to provide a multitude of advantages to patients, doctors, and medical staff.”
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies aim to enable a system that is capable enough to share data across the globe with the use of advanced connected devices and advanced communication standards and network technologies. This vision of IoT, which has been around us for quite a significant time (more than 20 years now), is particularly heartening. As it happens, according to a report by WHO (World Health Organization) in 2023, the global health workforce shortage will reach 10m in the following decades from 18m in 2013 and 15m in 2020. While efforts are being made to fill this gap, a new trend of personalized and connected healthcare is emerging where IoT devices in the form of wearables (smart wristbands, smartwatches, Fitbit, smart vests, etc.) have been successfully easing the burden on healthcare infrastructure globally.
Leveraging IoT devices, gateways, wireless network standards, and cloud infrastructure where servers and storage are linked together is effectively facilitating a new healthcare paradigm shift where people are less dependent on national healthcare and remote, personal monitoring, detection and diagnosis is possible.
Research done by Accenture in 2014 estimates that UK’s National Health Service (NHS) can save 7B pounds/year by using innovative technologies to provide effective healthcare to chronically ill patients remotely and reducing hospital visits and admissions. Another report by Deloitte in 2015 highlighted that the wearable market in UK digital health was to grow 25% between 2014-2018, from 1.4B pounds to 2.4B pounds, whereas Applications saw 35% growth from 0.08B pounds to 0.25B pounds.
Personalized and connected healthcare in the present and future
Personalized and Connected health, made possible by IoT advancements, has the potential to provide a multitude of advantages to patients, doctors, and medical staff. For instance, devices like insulin pumps and blood-pressure cuffs not only allow individuals to record and monitor their vital signs, but they also enable doctors and medical staff to remotely track their progress. This is particularly beneficial for patients as it ensures prompt treatment.
Additionally, IoT-based wearables offer significant advantages to elderly individuals, allowing them to manage their health from the comfort of their own homes instead of enduring lengthy hospital stays, which can sometimes be emotionally taxing. Furthermore, connected health empowers individuals to grant access to their health data to their relatives, doctors, or caregivers via various applications, resulting in numerous benefits.
The future of personalized health involves not only wearable devices but highly interrelated Telehealthcare (telecare and telehealth), mHealth, Health Analytics, and Digitised health systems. Telehealthcare involves support and assistance that can be provided to patients remotely using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and the remote exchange of medical data between a patient and the doctor.
Mobile health is also a trend due to the use of health and well-being mobile applications and their integration with wearable devices. The medical data thus generated needs health analytics for better results. Various software solutions and analytical capabilities are required to not only assimilate big data but to analyze it. Further use of Digitised health systems for digital health information storage and exchange of patient medical records enables end-to-end digital health.
IoT Technologies and Devices Felicitating Personalized and Connected Healthcare
With the advancement in Internet technologies and Internet of Things devices that have come up over the last decade, personalized and connected health has become mainstream. Various wearables leverage IoT technologies such as BLE proximity advertisement, UWB, NFC, proximity sensors, and ECG, heart rate, and blood glucose sensors to provide continuous health metrics, keeping you updated on your health. Wearables also provide connected health where medical records of patients can be remotely accessed by medical professionals and remote health check-ups can be performed, eliminating the need for routine health checks at a clinic.
The low power-consuming Bluetooth low energy technology is a prominent IoT technology that is now used in smartwatches, wristbands, and Fitbits. The small form factor and low cost of various such sensors allow for low-cost wearables, enabling a large-scale personalized, connected health which also minimizes the burden on healthcare infrastructure in cities and remote villages.
To conclude, the Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled personalization in healthcare which is unprecedented and revolutionary at the same time. It allows people to self-monitor their health, and check heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels etc. Connected health also allows remote health consultations, remote access to digital health records of patients, and early detection of cardiovascular diseases as well, particularly beneficial to older patients.