In our series on the potential of the IoT for the healthcare industry, so far we’ve looked at healthcare mobile apps and remote patient monitoring (RPM). Both of these topics play into our focus for this week: how health care professionals can harness the power of the IoT to manage their patients’ chronic conditions and to improve outcomes.
Focusing on the “big three” chronic conditions
For the purposes of discussion, we will focus mainly on the “big three” chronic conditions that affect thousands of Americans, cost millions for insurance providers and individuals alike each year and are proven to have better outcomes with close monitoring. These chronic conditions are:
- Heart conditions – predominantly congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Asthma (COPD)
Tapping into the IoT to affect meaningful change
If health care providers, insurance companies and major health networks focus their initial IoT integration efforts on devices and treatments for chronic conditions that affect so many people, real change may be evident in a short amount of time. Goldman-Sachs researchers David H. Roman and Kyle D. Conlee write:
“From a clinical standpoint, chronic disease management sits at the bulls-eye of the healthcare cost challenge given that these conditions account for a large and growing proportion of overall spend ($1.1 trillion annually, or one-third of total U.S. healthcare expenditure.” (4)
Roman and Conlee go on to explain that these three chronic conditions that cost the most each year – heart conditions (mainly congestive heart failure), asthma (COPD) and diabetes – are the “most fertile ground” for healthcare IoT. That’s because research has shown that remote monitoring of these conditions leads to:
- Improved patient outcomes – better quality of life
- Lower adverse events, including trips to the emergency room and doctor’s office
- Reduced healthcare costs
Therefore, not only does using IoT-connected devices to monitor and manage patients’ chronic conditions have a potential to drastically improve the life of a heart patient or a diabetic, for example, IoT applications in healthcare has the ability to help reduce health care costs for everyone.
Using the IoT to improve outcomes for chronic conditions
In patients with known chronic conditions, the main way that providers can use the IoT and IoT-connected devices is with regular, proactive monitoring. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) connects a medical device – such as a blood pressure cuff or glucose monitor – to a computer at a healthcare facility at which a provider can access and analyze the data. This cumulative data can help providers forecast future events, thus warning the patient ahead of time and also leading to improved future practices that can positively impact all patients with the condition.
Taken a step further, smart IoT-connected devices can be pre-programmed by a health care professional to send a warning or trigger in the event of an adverse effect. For example, a glucose monitor receives a reading in a dangerous range for an elderly diabetic patient and the local life squad is immediately summoned. As Maria Regan of Forbes has written, “By lessening the time it takes to diagnose and treat a patient, smart, internet-connected devices will lead to fundamental improvements in medical care.” Or, in less urgent situations, the IoT-connected blood pressure reader could send an alert to a patient’s cardiologist that readings have been irregular recently and the patient’s medication levels may need assessed.
Time will only tell what emerging technologists in the healthcare field will develop to continue to help manage chronic conditions. Patients who have increased access to technology like iPhones and iPads – and are also taking an increased interest in keeping their health care costs down – will surely help to drive the adoption of these new technologies.
Cousins, Mathias, Tadashi Castillo-Hi and Glenn H. Snyder. “Devices and diseases: How the IoT is transforming medtech.” Deloitte University Press. Accessed online.
Regan, Maria. “How the Internet of Things may help save heart attack and stroke victims.” Forbes.com. 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.
Originally appeared on The IoT Collective.