Over the last few decades, technology advancements have brought about a sea of change in the healthcare space, globally. While there have been several notable achievements, there are some challenges that need to be addressed and remediated immediately – growing healthcare cost, aging global population and increasing instances of chronic disease.
While technology cannot interfere with the natural aging process of human beings or eradicate chronic diseases at once, it can certainly help make healthcare easier on ourpockets and more accessible.Connected devices, in the form of smartphones, wearables, appliances, home systems and other personal gadgets form an Internet of Things (IoT) and have an extensive applicability in healthcare.
At 8.4 billion connected devices, the world already has seen more IoT devices in the last decade. By 2020, this number is expected to reach 50 billion. While IoT offers various utility applications for users, it also generates a real-time flow of data. With the help of advanced analytics, this data can be processed, analysed, and channeled towards a more proactive action.
An effective combination of IoT and analytics can help create a healthcare model that can deliver healthcare services to the common milieu in an accessible, efficient and affordable manner. Analytics-enabled IoT solutions play a key role in healthcare delivery. Such connected healthcare solutions could provide the much needed comprehensive and integrated approach in a challenging environment that is largely plagued with over-crowding, fund paucity, diverse geographical challenges, sharp class divide in the society, and acute shortage of qualified personnel.
Benefits of analytics enabled IoT healthcare solutions
IOT-based healthcare solutions have the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of treatments and accordingly improve the health of patients. With real-time monitoring of health conditions via smart medical devices connected to a smartphone app, health data can be collected to perform analytics-driven information extraction, which can then be shared with physicians. IoT devices can gather, analyze and communicate data in real-time and reduce the need to store raw data. Moreover, healthcare operations allow organisations to get vital healthcare analytics and data-driven insights, which speed up decision-making, and are less prone to errors.
Building a patient-centric and proactive care delivery model
Connected healthcare solutions, leveraging IoT and analytics, will have a profound impact on the patients’ experience. Transitioning from reactive, provider-driven, and largely episodic care delivery models that are increasingly costly and inefficient to operate, connected healthcare will lead the way for a model that is proactive, digitally-enabled, and patient-centric.
Connected healthcare is beginning to redefine patient monitoring, taking it beyond the institutional set-up of the hospital to record vital parameters like blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, blood sugar levels, stress levels, body movement, and more from the convenience of the patients’ home.
Medical personnel can keep track of the patients’ health as they go about their everyday life. When anything out of ordinary is flagged or any potential incidents are recorded, providers will be alerted promptly, which will make them respond quickly. For patients suffering from chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and asthma, and those in need of constant care, this coordinated and integrated care delivery model can transform their lives.
Exploring the full potential of data integral to connected healthcare
While connected devices are finding diverse applications in healthcare, they are also fueling an explosion of medical data. The ability to process and analyse this data, as opposed to simply gathering and storing it, would be integral to connected healthcare.
Medical data can be managed easily and utilised properly with the help of analytics and easy to use dashboards. Efficient information retrieval from this data would enable healthcare providers to act in a time-sensitive manner, decide fast on treatment options, and deliver personalised care to each patient.
The real potential for analytics in healthcare, however, lies in its predictive capabilities. Data-driven discoveries would lead to foreseeing health issues, deciding the best possible course of treatment, and undertaking preventive actions. On a larger scale, connected healthcare services could provide means to predict disease outbreaks, avoid preventable diseases, and improve the overall quality of life.
(The writer is Suman Roy, Director, Data Sciences,Optum Global Solutions. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)