A 61-year-old man with a history of atrial fibrillation starts experiencing heart palpitations. He reaches for a device that records his EKG and sends it to his doctor through his smartphone.
- A patient who feels empowered to manage his health and has peace of mind.
- Cost savings from avoiding unnecessary doctor visits or trips to the emergency room.
- More efficient use of time for both patients and healthcare professionals.
This is how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing medicine today. By giving machines a voice, it improves clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, operations and reimbursement. The potential for revolutionizing healthcare is within reach.
Delivering better patient care more efficiently
Nearly three out of four healthcare executives expect IoT to disrupt the field within three years, according to a survey by Accenture. Unfortunately, just half of them believe their superiors understand IoT’s importance to their organization. This disconnect could be costly, the report emphasizes, because providers and payers must act now to fully realize IoT’s benefits — and there are many.
Patient Satisfaction. Both healthcare providers and payers are focused on the patient experience. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement is tied to patient satisfaction (as measured by HCAHPS) and both healthcare systems and insurance companies compete fiercely for patients. Interestingly, in the Accenture survey almost two-thirds of providers said a key benefit of their operation’s IoT programs was improved patient experience. Likewise, 44 percent of payers saw a significant increase in customer experience scores resulting from IoT initiatives.
Customized care. Through the use of IoT tools, patients experience more personalized and convenient treatment. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, like the EKG device mentioned earlier, enable doctors to monitor chronic conditions like cardiac disease, asthma and diabetes. They also reduce costs by replacing heavy medical equipment. Payers report significant savings of 42 percent through the use of RPM equipment, Accenture said.
Operations efficiency. Healthcare is more than the relationship between doctors and patients, or among healthcare professionals. Behind the scenes, IoT impacts patient care through operational efficiencies. The savings are considerable: In Accenture’s survey, nearly a third of healthcare providers reported “extensive” administrative cost savings from the use of IoT.
Giving healthcare devices a voice. The Internet of Things is about giving machines a voice. Sensors, tags and smart devices all collect essential data that’s used to improve healthcare and realize significant cost savings. Cloud communications make this all possible by easily sending information over the internet through web-based applications.
Here are some of the ways leading healthcare organizations and payers use IoT today:
Wearable technology. Smart watches and fitness trackers are having significant impacts on wellness programs and the monitoring of chronic conditions. To move the needle on the use of these tools, providers and payers poll patients to ascertain their readiness. Some organizations offer free or discounted wearable devices.
Asset management. IoT allows hospitals to better manage equipment and supplies. For example, location sensors tagged to equipment, and even patients, enable staff to locate anyone and anything, streamlining their work and resulting in more efficient care. Sensors monitor equipment and alert staff to issues before a breakdown occurs. Other IoT systems manage medical supplies and drug inventory.
Smart medical devices. It may sound like science fiction, but these medical innovations are happening today. The FDA approved the first smart pill in 2017. The pill contains microscopic sensors that detect when a medicine is ingested. A wearable patch shares information with a smartphone app to help the patient monitor a medication’s dosage and usage.
Yet another device may revolutionize asthma treatment. The “smart inhaler” measures actual doses, reminds patients when to use the device and even tracks environmental conditions. A connected smartphone app helps the patient better manage their condition and shares its data with providers and insurance companies.
The time is now
With rising costs and an aging patient population, healthcare resources are being stretched like never before. Smart devices offer a way to deliver better and more effective healthcare services. But in order to reap these benefits, healthcare systems and payers must begin implementing IoT now.