Sustainable adoption of Internet of Things technology within healthcare will require a concerted effort by patients, caregivers and providers; but will also reap rewards for each as wearables and connectivity solutions advance in functionality.
While healthcare, as an industry, ranks low when it comes to embracing machine-to-machine connections, compared to other sectors such as manufacturing and finance, Internet of Things (IoT) is creating new care models, improving patient experiences and driving efficiency in providers' business operations, according to new data from Verizon's "State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015" report.
The overall number of IoT connections is predicted to more than quadruple between 2014 and 2020 to about 5.4 billion connections globally; and organizations, including employers and payers, are expected to introduce more than 13 million health and fitness tracking tools into the workplace by 2018, according to the report.
Security and privacy is also being debated for IoT in the healthcare industry and beyond. A Federal Trade Commission report on how to reduce the security and privacy risks for consumers posed by IoT has drawn criticism, even by one of the FTC's own commissioners. The FTC's backing for data minimization--the notion that companies should gather and store less information, not more--has drawn the most heat.
However, the Verizon report's authors say adoption of IoT will eventually "transform" healthcare, as the cost of IoT tech continues to decline, consumers gain greater knowledge about IoT tools and organizations foster IoT through incentives and reward programs.
"Ultimately, the use of IoT technologies will depend greatly on who's going to pay for them and where their use will produce the greatest return on investment," Nancy Green, Verizon's enterprise global lead, healthcare, told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview. "On the consumer-patient side, there is great potential for these technologies to impact the chronic disease picture in this country, but there is less predictability around how and to what degree they will do so."
Consumer IoT use will deepen as employers and providers subsidize mHealth wearables and apps. "On the other hand, if wearables are left entirely to the consumer to adopt, the incentive for utilizing them will diminish over time," notes Green.
Healthcare organizations have tremendous incentive, beyond boosting patient care, to foster IoT adoption because of the potential to reduce costly re-admissions. However, it will be operational efficiencies gained through IoT that will likely take root first, Green says.
Other leading mHealth experts have echoed Greens comments, including Mony Weschler, chief applications strategist at New York's Montefiore Medical Center. Weschler believes the top compelling mHealth drive is the ability to save money through early intervention patient care and believes biometrics monitoring will be the first mHealth tech to take deep route.
Green also spoke about current examples of IoT being used today.
"Some hospitals have begun implementing 'smart beds' that can detect when they are occupied and when a patient is attempting to get up. The smart bed can also adjust itself to ensure appropriate pressure and support is applied to the patient without the assistance of a nurse," Green said. Another IoT example is the use of medication dispensers that can automatically upload data to a cloud when a patient doesn't take medication or provide other indicators for which a care provider should be alerted, she adds.
For more information:
- read the Verizon report
Growth spurt ahead for wireless chips thanks to wearable demand
Why content plays huge role in promise of mHealth
Wearables may give way to ingestible mHealth tech
Report: To succeed, wearables need more than fitness focus
Top mHealth drivers are cost savings, early patient intervention care
FTC report on IoT calls for update to HIPAA standards