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How the Internet of Things will shape healthcare

The Internet of Things refers to the inter-networking of physical devices, connected devices and smart devices; together with buildings, plus other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity. The aim is to enable each of these objects to collect and exchange data.

This technological transformation is set to impact heavily on healthcare over the next few years. Consider machines that can assess an individual’s well-being from within their own home, circumventing a visit to a doctor. Add to this mobile apps that can assess blood and temperature, assessing signs as symptoms. Other devices can send reminders about weight and exercise.

Mood predicting wearable device developed by MIT.

Mood predicting wearable device developed by MIT.
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab

READ MORE: Growth in online medical information platforms

Based on this trajectory, Converge has considered several key trends and future state developments. The five most interesting of these have been selected and expanded upon.

First, is that the Internet of Things will lower costs. This is based on analysis by Goldman Sachs, where their projection is a $300 billion saving in global healthcare spending within the next five years. This will be foremost with chronic disease management (such as asthma where smart inhalers can transmit important data to medics remotely). The key saving stems from more patient monitoring means fewer checkups.

Second is improved patient care. This stems from health tracking information gatherers where a change in the condition of a patient can be wirelessly sent to doctors, leading to a speedier response. Examples include fetal monitors and electrocardiographs being sent over WiFi or other data networks.

Third is the empowered patients. The Internet of Things will allow patients to get expert medical advice without going to the doctor via telehealth applications. Here the patient and the doctor (located anywhere in the world) become connected.

Fourth is improved technology. The argument runs that the greater take-up of connected technology then the more reliable it will become, especially through competition between providers. Wearables are the devices most likely to be affected. Here expect better communication standards and protocols for the new generation of medical wearables.

Fitbit Alta

Fitbit Alta

Fifth, and finally, many experts expect to see a reduction in fashion and a rise in reliability. At present too many devices, like fitness trackers are designed and marketed on what they look like with only what they do as secondary. The shift here will be towards solving and monitoring medical issues with greater accuracy.

If you enjoyed reading this article, Digital Journal has undertaken an assessment of the main technological trends influencing healthcare right now. See: “Digital transformation in healthcare: Five top trends.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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