Alan Bugos, Head of Technology and Innovation, Philips [NYSE:PHG]
We are in an era where the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting the way healthcare is delivered every day, and the benefits of connected healthcare are increasingly compelling—from improved patient health outcomes to reduced overall costs. IoT is helping make meaningful sense of patient data and is important to the engagement of caregivers, clinicians and payers as we transition to a data-driven value-based care model.
"While there are many challenges to overcome to achieve fully interoperable and secure IoT, the benefits of connected health are promising"
One area where IoT is making an impact is in advancing population health management and, more specifically, transforming costly senior care. With a rapidly growing senior population and approximately 80 percent of older adults having at least one chronic disease, IoT helps clinicians address key challenges seniors face such as the prevention and management of falls and medication adherence. With IoT, health systems are able to tap into an ecosystem of integrated solutions, from telehealth, to home monitoring, connected devices and more, to help provide ongoing, cost-effective interventions to patients as they transition through different settings and levels of risk. IoT supports efforts to provide seamless patient care in the following three ways:
1. Increased patient engagement – We have witnessed a burst of wearable gadgets and IoT health technology around fitness and health. These wearables are serving as sources of motivation to maintain or improve one’s health by enabling patients to be more engaged with their own health data—sharing it with their social circles, engaging in fitness challenges or setting daily movement goals. We will soon see IoT play a bigger role in the analysis and use of data collected from wearables. The everyday wear of these devices, generating patient-specific data, when analyzed can assist with timely interventions and circumventing a catastrophic health event.
As these devices and IoT become a bigger part of the way in which we track our own health, patients will become more comfortable with the regular monitoring of weight, heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals. Particularly for older Americans with chronic conditions, the potential trend analysis of this everyday data would provide patients and their caregivers the insights they need to stay out of the hospital and in the comfort of their home.
2. Reduced costs of care – The expanding network of medical devices and wearables are enabling greater access to care, subsequently reducing healthcare costs. For example, a visit to a dermatologist can cost hundreds of dollars. If a patient could share an image of a rash over an IoT-based solution, the analysis done using intelligent image processing could potentially complete the first steps of care, or spur decision making processes. By incorporating IoT, patients can get help faster, clinicians can receive insights and analysis quickly, and a significant portion of the cost is removed from the equation.
As we move away from a fee-for-service healthcare system, targeting populations that are the most costly and the highest utilizers of our health systems will prove to be critical. The IoT involved in remote monitoring and predictive analytics will allow health systems to be more cost-effective and focus their efforts on populations at risk, whether it is a senior at risk of a fall or a patient with diabetes not adhering to their medications.
3. Enhanced interoperability – As IoT becomes an integral part of patient care, the interoperability of various data formats between devices and platforms will need to evolve to accept proper data interworking, and develop a means of refining this data for validity and accuracy. In the future, if a patient has a wearable health watch, it may not just be tied to a single back-end network or platform—a patient could practice a different form of “BYOD” and bring their own device to their medical appointment and connect to their provider’s preferred electronic health record, giving their clinician access to the patient’s own data repository.
This enhanced interoperability will enable better data sharing across one’s caregiver circle, both informal caregivers and health providers, and empower patients to feel a greater sense of control over their health data.
While there are many challenges to overcome to achieve fully interoperable and secure IoT, the benefits of connected health are promising. It allows physicians and caregivers to meet patients where they are, opens up a new realm of health data insights, and supports health systems in their quest to meet their financial and quality metric goals.