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7 Examples of IoT in Healthcare
Everyday objects now have sensors and software technology that connects these items to the internet. This technology is collecting and transmitting data through what we know as the Internet of Things. IoT is dramatically changing all aspects of our lives, including healthcare. Everything from virtual hospitals to ingestible sensors have the potential to improve millions of lives. The following are seven examples of IoT in healthcare.
Smartwatches are one of the first items people often think of regarding wearable IoT in healthcare technological. Even though the designers of these watches were not initially creating them with healthcare in mind, they are quickly adapting and offering medical advances millions of people depend on. But smartwatches are just the beginning. A few other specific devices healthcare professionals may use to monitor patients include armpit patches that can monitor a patient’s temperature and finger clips that track heart rate and even oxygen saturation levels.
Zanthion is a specific example of a smart wearable worn like jewelry or even an item of clothing. These devices monitor heart rate, temperature, and detect changes in a person’s daily routine. Zanthion can also detect if an individual falls out of bed, is motionless for an unusual amount of time, or wanders to a location that is not normally part of the person’s normal routine. The company can provide smartwatches as well as other sensors such as motion detectors and smart bed alarms.
Medical Refrigeration Monitoring
Managing the temperature of vaccines and medications is a critical aspect of providing the best healthcare possible. Wireless sensors are now in place in hospital and laboratory freezers and refrigerators. This will ensure that not only medications but items such as blood samples remain at the correct temperature. Monitoring the temperature of vaccines is particularly important now during the Covid crisis.
ResearchGate points out that medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Taking medication improperly is a big part of the medical errors that harm people. Smart sensor technology can monitor the temperature of medication, the expiration date, and even provide expert security with biometric identification. Refrigerator alert systems can now also alert medical professionals if specific types of vaccines or medications are running low.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of the IoT in healthcare is virtual hospitals. This would include smart wearables and other devices that would enable healthcare professionals to provide medical care in virtually any location. This type of virtual healthcare can help treat individuals in remote and difficult-to-reach areas. Virtual hospitals can reduce patient anxiety and also free hospital beds for only the sickest patients.
Swedish medtech company, Doccla, is partnering with Northampton General Hospital to start a remote smart monitoring trial. Clinicians are remotely monitoring patients with chronic illnesses. Using a secure web browser, medical professionals are monitoring and making treatment decisions for patients who are remaining at home or other remote locations.
Automated Insulin Delivery
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 34 million Americans have diabetes. Automated insulin delivery (AID) systems work in conjunction with ongoing glucose monitoring. As the levels of glucose in a person’s body rise and fall, a pump is able to deliver a precise amount of insulin. This AID system works even when the individual is sleeping. Insulin delivery systems currently operate with the assistance of a handheld receiving device.
The AID system eliminates the finger stick test to measure glucose levels. There are now several companies producing AID systems for commercial use. Patients and healthcare providers currently control these systems with a receiver. It is hopeful that in the near future they will operate through smartphones. As AID systems become more affordable and easier to operate, they will hopefully reduce serious health conditions in those with diabetes.
Ingestible sensors have the potential to simplify healthcare for millions of patients. A colonoscopy is a procedure many people dread and put off. By ingesting a sensor the size of a pill, physicians may detect conditions from colon cancer to irritable bowel syndrome without having to complete more invasive procedures. Doctors can also use ingestible sensors to make sure patients are taking medication on a regular basis. There are generally three elements to ingestible sensors.
Pill – Patients ingest a pill that will quickly dissolve in their stomach. Pills often consist of a combination of minerals, bacteria, and a tiny circuit.
Sensors – The sensors that a person ingests send messages to a patch that then sends them to a smartphone.
Phone – Patients and medical care providers can receive the information. Professionals then make decisions regarding the patient’s care.
Mental Health Monitoring
Advances in technology are also affecting the mental health field. The International Journal of Bipolar Disorders states that psychiatry professionals are now using items such as body patches, belts, and other types of clothing to monitor and help treat patients. These devices can transfer information regarding an individual’s mood and stress level. IoT devices can analyze activity patterns in the body in order to distinguish between bipolar disorder and other physical and mental conditions.
Artificial intelligence, along with the internet, is now able to help minimize the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Healthcare applications that include chat apps are now available for patient use. These apps provide lessons and tools for individuals to work through difficult emotions. Those struggling with mental health conditions can receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help them change negative thought patterns.
Medical Waste Management
Handling and properly monitoring medical waste is crucial to prevent the spread of disease. Infectious, radioactive, and hazardous materials are examples of specific types of medical waste. Current methods of managing waste only involve collecting waste and transferring it to a remote location. IoT is increasingly playing a role in better handling of medical waste. This will not only help prevent the spread of disease but decrease the negative effect toxic waste may have on the environment.
One way the IoT will help manage and eliminate medical waste is through something as simple as trash bin Rfid sensors. These sensors measure various aspects of different types of waste in disposal bins. The information gets transmitted to the internet or a smartphone. The sensors can also track the waste and the bin through various stages such as transfer, landfill disposal, and then the sterilization process.
Medicine and technology are continually merging and producing an array of incredible healthcare breakthroughs. Whether it is ingestible sensors or refrigeration monitoring to keep vaccines as safe and effective as possible, the IoT in healthcare is now part of a medical revolution that is improving patient care and individual lives.