While every industry takes advantage of the latest advancements in tech (or at least should) advancements within health care may be the most important. Not only does connected health make things easier for patients and care providers, but it saves lives.
Connected Health IoT
For anyone who has spent time in a hospital recently it is clear the medical community has embraced some next-gen technology. A hospital may be the most high-tech facility the average person ever sees, but they’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible in connected health and IoT.
One area that has seen mass adoption over the last year is utilizing wireless technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi, LoRaWAN, LTE, and others. Within connected health, these technologies are used to connect sensors and monitoring devices within the building. Refrigeration sensors ensure medication and vaccines are kept at safe temperatures, and tracking beacons identify the location of portal lifesaving equipment as well.
Many providers are exploring the use of wearable technology like wristbands and rings to monitor a patient’s vitals, reducing the current form factor of existing solutions. Currently, large, bulky, and static equipment must be disconnected to move the patient. This is also the case if the care worker requires more hands-on interaction, such as rotating a patient or changing bandages.
Using wearables instead is exciting for sure, but even more exciting is the state of connected health beyond the winding wings of the traditional healthcare facility.
Connected Health for EMTs
As 3 Tree Tech’s IoT guy, I get most excited about technologies we’re helping healthcare facilities with wireless 5G integration in the field.
Historically, connected health has been plagued with the problem of maintaining dependable communication channels. In addition, med-tech solutions have been expensive, slow, and often unreliable due to latency and available data connections. As 4G LTE networks have matured these technologies have become more capable, but the introduction of 5G networks is a game-changer for med-tech and connected health.
Regarding the benefit of 5G, Most people think of speed, but 5G’s use in connected health is far greater. Not only does 5G supply the speed, bandwidth, and low latency for large adoption of video, but it allows for 100 times more devices per tower than 4G networks allowed. Consider what this does for the humble ambulance.
You might not know it, but ambulances carry quite a bit of technology, albeit often on their own “technology island.” This poses a challenge: While EMTs input symptoms, vitals, and other information into a tablet, for example, they are often unable to provide that data to the Emergency Room or trauma surgeon until the moment of arrival. By both connecting and integrating those devices with the hospital’s EMR systems, however, medical teams can be briefed and ready with rich data before patient arrival, reducing patient hand-off time.
One of the newer connected health solutions available for first responders is a connected video bag. This portable telemedicine solution empowers physicians to physically see and talk to a patient or first responder on-site or even en route to the hospital. By forming a diagnosis sooner, treatment can start sooner. In some cases, a physician can reroute the patient to a different facility better equipped to handle their unique situation. Connected health isn’t limited to the health system, however.
In The Home
Opportunities in connected health within the home are equally exciting. Consider the value of sending a patient home from the hospital a few days earlier, still able to monitor and communicate with the patient.
Often, patients are held an extra day in a hospital for the sole purpose of additional monitoring. It’s a wise decision for patient care but is costly. Because many hospitals run close to capacity, the sooner beds and monitoring equipment are available, the better. By utilizing telehealth conference calls and connected devices including watches, rings, blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, patients could go home and physicians could gain the trending health data required. These technologies also bridge the gap between common health problems and preventative measures.
The final frontier of connected health in the home is utilizing connected health to monitor people’s everyday health. In the last few years, we have seen a spike in the adoption of smartwatches, fitness bands, smart weight scales, sleep monitors, and other devices that gather great data, but much is underutilized Gathering the number of steps taken or flights of stairs climbed is a good start, but today’s capabilities have far greater potential.
Consider a continuous stream of data that flows into an intelligent monitoring system, capable of identifying potential issues early. Consider sending vitals to your doctor before a telehealth visit, or even receiving a call from your doctor before you’re aware of an issue at all. This is the next step in connected health and most don’t realize it’s already here..
It doesn’t matter if you have an iPhone or an Android device, they each have applications (Apple HealthKit and Google Fit for example) that not only correlate data from many different devices and apps, but can transmit that data to most top healthcare systems.
I often discuss how we are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution and how COVID-19 will be a catalyst to push adoption of IoT, but when it comes to connected health, the future is even more exciting.
Chris Moeller is a 5G and IoT researcher at 3 Tree Tech. If you want to integrate IoT technology into your tech or need mobility infrastructure help, he’s willing to lend you his big brain. Reach out!
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