• February 17, 2017

Is IoT the Healthcare Industry’s Wonder Drug?

Networked wearables could drive down healthcare costs and improve outcomes.

By Marc Wilkinson, Chief Technologist & Mobility Global Practice lead, HPE Enterprise Services

While the air transportation and energy sectors are undergoing dramatic shifts, it’s healthcare that will experience the most sweeping changes from the IoT revolution. With connected things continuously exchanging and analyzing data in real time, healthcare will shift from a reactive to a proactive field. IoT-empowered systems provide a far more vivid picture of emerging problems—and costs—than any technology or process preceding it.

IoT as Wellness Prescription

Instead of focusing on patients when they get sick or decline, IoT technologies enable physicians to work with patients while they’re healthy or stabilized to stay that way. For example, the Dexcom G5 Mobile Continuous Glucose Monitoring System transmits blood sugar level data from wearable sensors to a smartphone. Billed as the first fully mobile real-time glucose monitoring system, the G5 lets users share data with their healthcare providers to spot problems before they become serious.

The Nonin WristOx2 enables remote and extended monitoring of oxygen saturation and pulse rate readings for hospitalized patients or those recovering at home. Designed for patients with asthma or those at risk for congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the wearable collects data that can be shared via a USB cable or wirelessly.

Merging Healthcare With the Predictive Arts

Wearables connected to analytics systems can help caregivers spot potential problems and take preventive action. These systems can dramatically reduce unnecessary tests and procedures by providing clinicians with a comprehensive view of patient health. They can also be integrated into workflows, creating detailed audit trails so that healthcare payers can see treatment patterns in real time. These resulting value chains not only reduce costs and drive efficiencies, they can also improve outcomes by enabling preventive strategies.

Yet it’s predictive analytics and intelligent systems that may fuel the most dramatic breakthroughs. Aspire Health, a Nashville start-up that just lassoed $32 million in funding, says its death-predicting algorithm could slash healthcare costs. The algorithm works by scouring medical claims, zeroing in on diagnoses for ailments such as congestive heart failure or late-stage cancer, and patterns of frequent hospitalizations. By offering these patients palliative care at home to keep them comfortable, Aspire Health helps them avoid costly ER visits, painful procedures, and hospital stays.

A healthcare industry saturated with IoT technologies could potentially generate real health benefits by dramatically improving predictive capabilities. These capabilities could significantly disrupt the industry and transform its current reactive stance. The resulting shift to a wellness model could marshal effective solutions to the industry’s cost problem while improving outcomes and saving lives.

For more on the evolution of healthcare, read Apps in Healthcare.