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The Far-Reaching Impact of IoT in Healthcare

Ludo Fassati, Head of IOT, Vodafone
Ludo Fassati, Head of IOT, Vodafone

Ludo Fassati, Head of IOT, Vodafone

A year ago the idea of “IoT in healthcare” might not have meant much to many outside of the industry. Although operating prolifically, digital tools often work behind the scenes, and patients don’t have to think about them. But the pandemic brought digital technology in healthcare to the forefront. Anyone who had a doctor’s appointment during most of 2020  knows how important connectivity is to their well-being.

In fact, healthcare has become more connected over the last 20 years. From the unseen in clinical research and supply chains to patient facing for independent living and remote monitoring, IoT has already had a transformational effect, streamlining drug development and delivery, creating efficiencies, more accurate data and new models of care as well as better care to places once unreachable.

Hospital care before intake

Take, for instance, a hospital receiving patients. The process for obtaining patient history and assessing condition would typically be manual. That meant cumbersome, and error prone, information transfer when reaching the facility and less of a chance for expert intervention along the way.

Using a connected application, patient data can be securely analyzed in real-time and communicated to caregivers at the hospital before the patient arrives. Phones or tablets enable care from anywhere so doctors and nurses can monitor the journey and offer guidance even in transit. Through IoT, full patient history and medical data is accurate and easily accessible to all those involved in treatment.

 With all this connectivity and ever expanding endpoints, it goes without saying, health data must be protected and encrypted to the highest standards 

The same applies to at-home monitoring. Automating data collection helps ensure optimal health of those with chronic conditions for which treatment depends on exact readings. The precision of self-observation driven by technology allows many to remain safe and independent at home rather than in a long-term care facility.

Keeping medicine safe

Sensors attached to medicine packaging perform a different kind of monitoring. They can track and assess drugs during the long trail of the pharmaceutical supply chain to ensure product efficacy in the end. Changes in temperature, movement and light can be detected and alerts sent to allow for correction.

As we all now know, certain medicines, like vaccines, may be particularly sensitive to temperature. A cold tracing solution can monitor vaccine refrigerators and provide critical information on storage in near real time. Medical professionals can then address any problems before the vaccines spoil and become ineffective.

Reaching the remote

In developing countries, safety in the supply chain and along the care spectrum can be especially challenging. Having the right testing equipment, diagnostic data, medicines and expertise in the right place, at the right time can make the difference between life and death — particularly in situations of highly communicable diseases.

IoT connectivity can bring data from remote clinics to frontline doctors. It can assist drones in delivering drugs faster to remote locations. And, as the world knows all too well now, technology is essential for monitoring and responding to disease outbreaks in real-time. In remote areas, communication would otherwise be done through paperwork and couriers, causing a loss of critical lifesaving time.

IoT in action right now

As we continue to fight the pandemic, rollout the vaccine and while trying to resume daily activity, heat detection solutions will help businesses re-open by automating temperature checks. Connected thermal cameras are fast, cost efficient and accurate. They eliminate manual efforts and reduce the resources needed to action this step as part of a broader COVID-19 safety plan.

Contact is limited through remote operations, while wireless capabilities allow cameras to be set up in out-of-the-way locations. A centralized command and control location receives information so action can be taken accordingly.

IOT in the future

With all this connectivity and ever expanding endpoints, it goes without saying, health data must be protected and encrypted to the highest standards. Many of the applications mentioned are quite sophisticated, but we’re only at the beginning of what’s possible with IoT in healthcare. It will continue to push the boundaries of medicine and help ensure the industry is ready for the future.

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