Healthcare follows in the footsteps of IT to deliver predictive care - "IoHT"
Everywhere we seem to turn these days there seems to be an election going on. FIFA, America, Europe and of course we've just had the Irish general election and the Assembly elections and the Europe In/Out Referendum are still to come.
In “Normal” politics, we hold our political representatives to account for such things as Employment, Education, The Environment and of course Healthcare. No matter what country it is, pressure on government plans for health resources is a major issue. With respect to the concept of The Internet of Things (IoT), can IT help to resolve the ever growing health issues of the future?
Imagine having a stroke while on holiday — not while you are out sightseeing, but in a hospital, because technology helped to get you there before the stroke even occurred. Would being in a hospital under the supervision of care providers increase your chances of survival? I believe so, because the amount of time from the onset of a stroke to the administration of thrombolytics (medicine to dissolve blood clots) is critical. Adverts in the media constantly highlight the need for speed, as faster treatment may limit the extent of brain injury and improve the outcome after a stroke.
Consider the hypothetical scenario were a wearable device could establish a patients morning biometrics baseline, a smartwatch then detects slurred speech and notifies their GP of potential TIA or stroke indicators, and their GPS-enabled device allow emergency services to quickly locate and transfer the patient to the nearest medical facility. Once the patient is admitted, in-hospital sensors collect biometrics and care providers are immediately notified when the stroke actually occurred. All of these things matter because research shows that intravenous administration of thrombolytics is effective only if administered within three hours from the onset of symptoms.
The intelligent convergence and integration of sensor-based data, collected via IoT devices and mobile technologies is collectively now referred to as the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT). This data can be combined with existing electronic health record (EHR) systems, to create something called a Real-Time Health System (RTHS).
We all want personal, quality care when it comes to our health. We want it to be cost-effective and, for the most part, we want to feel empowered throughout all parts of the process. The possibilities associated with health care and the IoT check all these boxes and more.
It’s estimated that the likes of the US currently spend 18% of their GDP on Healthcare and that is expected to keep rising and is a reflection on the trends set by most western governments. Yet IT sees the use of mobile and smart devices as the answer to cutting these costs. Think of it this way: More sensor devices means more patient monitoring for chronic issues, and more patient monitoring means fewer check-ups and unnecessary appointments (or having to wait two weeks to see your own GP!)—all resulting in cost reduction.
That health tracking information could also help doctors provide better care. IoHT-enabled devices can provide remote data from equipment like fetal monitors and electrocardiographs, among others. When information like temperatures, heart rates and glucose levels are automatically transmitted in real-time via wearable devices, hospitals could operate more efficiently and patients receive better care. All that extra data can help carers monitor patients’ sleep and exercise patterns and even determine their risk for heart attack or stroke.
Consistency is critical, especially in health care however, the introduction of the IoHT into the field certainly does not negate that. This is one of the major stumbling blocks to the more common use of the IoHT in healthcare. Medical device manufacturers have not yet agreed on communication standards and protocols for all these new medical wearables and other IoHT- ready devices. A single hospital trust can use devices from a variety of manufactures, raising questions of propriety and consistency.
When the number of internet-connected devices increases, so do the number of entry points into the trusts data systems. Our trusts data systems are full of sensitive patient health care information which would grow significantly. This will appear attractive to cyber- attackers, private or political. Health care trusts must absolutely place security at the top of their must have list as they look ahead inevitably to the IoHT. More and more security health questions will arise as providers continue to delve into the world of mobile health apps. Cost will become less of a factor in the wearables department, as companies will strive to develop lower priced, more practical devices offering health care connectivity through apps.
The connectivity of medical devices and applications already exists, and the next step in the IoHT will be watching how this data is incorporated into patient care and open up a whole new focus on predictive medicine. Maybe we’ll soon see the day when your GP will call YOU to tell you to get to the hospital, before that heart attack even happens!!
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