One of the hottest topics in the economy relates to the cost of healthcare. A substantial part of this involves the use of technology for improving longevity, quality of life and, of course, reining in healthcare costs. Among the technology domains are medical technology devices for diagnostics, medical procedure assists and delivery of medications and services.A high cost area is providing healthcare at the lowest cost point of service. All of these are directly taking advantage of the use of IoT technology to improve outcomes and reduce costs.
Here are a few of the popular areas in healthcare IoT for 2020:
Robotics are not new in healthcare and, in many cases, the current crop of robotics already use integrated, smart, connected IoT technology to monitor system performance, provide human assisted control and to gather and process health sensor data. In 2020, it should be expected that the range of robotic assisted capabilities will expand and become increasingly sophisticated and intelligent.
By assisting with patient monitoring, healthcare facilities are not only managing costs but enabling them to provide a higher level of patient care. Given shortages of qualified healthcare professionals and those in related health services, robotics are one way of filling the gap on routine processes. In such applications, IoT technology is key in enabling the healthcare facility to gather necessary information and apply intelligence on the state of patient health and, as necessary, deploy other resources to assist with urgent medical issues.
In a facility, things such as sample routing or delivery of consumables are relatively simple and routine parts of facility management. Expect to see increased use of robots for such activities. In addition, this activity has to be monitored and integrated with other health and supply management infrastructure.
Health monitoring and sensing
One of the greatest challenges affecting many societies is the aging of the population. It is well known that healthcare, nursing and assisted living facilities represent high cost points of care. Being able to have the aging population safely live at home for as long as possible represents an opportunity for cost containment as well as improvement in quality of life. This is an area where significant development is already underway and is an important domain for IoT technology as an enabler. There are myriad companies currently working on pieces of the solution from wearable devices monitoring vital signs to environmental sensing to tracking movement and activity. All these are domains in which sensing, communicating and creating appropriate response actions are key. In the past, these have been treated as point solutions. Development continues in these areas. However, the biggest area for improvement is in the incorporation of all sensing and monitoring into integrated systems with intelligence to ensure that those living at home are not simply abandoned in place.
Much technology today is targeted at gathering specific data and the development of AI to act on specific sensor responses. In 2020 and beyond, the big win from the IoT front end will be the aggregation of disparate pieces of data and using this to intelligently anticipate the onset of health issues or incidents. IT pros should not expect leapfrog intelligence in 2020, but it is reasonable to expect that such integrated systems will become increasingly intelligent.
Monitoring and destroying pathogens
It is well known that the environment in a healthcare facility can contain extremely toxic pathogens on surfaces and in the air. Hospitals and health care facilities implement rigorous procedures for cleaning and containment in order to prevent the spread and dispersion of pathogens. Despite the best practices and procedures, pathogens continue to exist in these facilities and have a nasty way of migrating from place to place. There is significant activity underway in development of systems to kill pathogens using technology other than chemical agents.
Among the emerging technologies are those using high-powered UV LED technology. Fluorescent UV has been around for many years, but legacy systems are not particularly durable and performance degrades over time. Combined with robotics and other permanent infrastructure, UV destruction of pathogens using LEDs is emerging – especially as the costs and performance of the technology continues to improve. IoT fits into the picture as the deployment and tracking of usage for such systems rolls into facility infrastructure and processes.
Much research is also underway in rapid detection of pathogens that are airborne or present in or on the human body. There is a significant IoT role in this as well. Developing IoT detection devices at low cost could target and isolate pathogens with specific genetic characterizations. While still in early stages and not yet ready for mass commercialization, this technology brings the promise of early detection and isolation of disease before those effected are introduced into the hospital environment. Once sensors or mobile devices can rapidly detect pathogens, this information could be analyzed in a backend infrastructure to isolate affected individuals and intelligently map trends among the population and facility.
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