IoT Improves Health Through Remote Monitoring

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As I discussed in the first blog post in this series, potential applications for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the healthcare sector run deep and wide. Integrating with the IoT will enable health care providers of the future to see more patients, from a wider geographic area and at lower costs. Data collection and transmission en masse thanks to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) will allow quicker, more accurate diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions. And – as is the focus for this post – IoT-connected devices can perform remote patient monitoring (RPM) and diagnostics to improve patient quality of life.

Defining remote patient monitoring (RPM)

Goldman-Sachs researchers David H. Roman and Kyle D. Conlee define remote patients diagnostics and monitoring as “devices and applications that allow care providers to keep tabs on chronically ill, recently released, and overall ‘high-risk’ patients” (9). Simply put, remote monitoring devices allow care professionals to gather and analyze their patients’ health data without having to physically see the patient. This allows providers to have round-the-clock visibility into how their patients are doing, and enables them to be more proactive in terms of flagging and responding to potentially adverse health data.

Oftentimes, RPM takes advantage of technology that a patient already has in place in his or her home, such as wireless Internet and a smartphone or tablet. Sometimes, additional equipment such as an electronic blood pressure cuff or blood sugar testing device may need to be connected to the existing home network for health monitoring.

Using IoT-integrated devices to improve patient outcomes 

Research has shown that patients who perform regular monitoring of chronic conditions using IoT-enabled devices have better outcomes than those who don’t take advantage of these technologies. For example, a 2015 study of 269,471 patients with pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators or cardiac resynchronization therapy found that those patients who spent more time each week using remote monitoring had higher survival rates than those who didn’t use the remote monitoring that was available to them (Niraj, et al.).

Environmental monitoring via the IoT

Another type of health monitoring that IoT-enabled devices can facilitate is environmental monitoring, meaning devices installed in living spaces that enable certain high-risk individuals to live more independently. With remote environmental monitoring in place in homes and assisted living apartments, for example, older or disabled people are able to live more independently for longer. Knowing that a doctor or the life squad will be immediately notified in the event of an adverse health event – such as a spike in blood pressure or drop in blood sugar – can help set families’ minds at ease.

Using RPM to improve patient quality of life

In a 2014 report titled “Connecting Patients with Providers: A Pan-Canadian Study on Remote Patient Monitoring,” Canada Health Infoway writes:

“The role of information technology is a critical enabler to improving health services delivery. As decision-makers consider options for delivering high quality care at the right cost, there is a need for innovative solutions that potentially reconfigure traditional service delivery models. RPM is a critical enabler for this transformation with the potential to incentivize self-management, support the delivery of care in home settings and significantly improve the patient experience.” (Emphasis added)

Indeed, for all patient groups, RPM has the potential to reduce the number of hospitalizations, frequency of readmissions and lengths of hospital stays. Remote monitoring allows for more proactive healthcare that can anticipate patient needs before a situation becomes dire. All of these factors contribute to improving patient quality of life and help to drive down healthcare costs for everyone.

References

“Connecting Patients with Providers: A Pan-Canadian Study on Remote Patient Monitoring: Executive Summary.” Canada Health Infoway. Published June 2014. Accessed online.

Roman, David H. and Kyle D. Conlee. The Digital Revolution Comes to US Healthcare. Internet of Things, Vol. 5. Equity Research, Goldman-Sachs. Published 29 June 2015.

Varma, Niraj, et al. “The Relationship Between Level of Adherence to Automatic Wireless Remote Monitoring and Survival in Pacemaker and Defibrillator Patients.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 65 (24): 2015. Accessed online.

Originally appeared on The IoT Collective.

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