How IoT is Improving Healthcare

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

By Beth Weber

How IoT is improving healthcare

From smart watches to video game consoles, many people are already benefiting from the internet of things (IoT) to make their daily lives easier. IoT is simply a network of computerized devices. Your smart phone, smart thermostat, Amazon Alexa and thousands of other devices are a part of IoT. IoT is becoming increasingly important for health management. Many individuals already wear devices on their wrists that measure heart rate, blood pressure, steps walked, etc. Others track aspects of their health through their smartphones. Medical facilities are also using IoT to improve their services.

IoT often relies on artificial intelligence technologies, allowing for sophisticated medical use, including hospital hygiene adherence. These advancements are also making life easier for patients and the general population. Increased artificial intelligence (AI) use can only improve wellness in the United States and around the world.

AI Basics

Artificial intelligence refers to computer technology that allows machines to perform as humans in areas such as speech recognition, problem solving, learning, and planning. Many people use AI on a daily basis through applications such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. They simply ask these virtual assistants for answers to questions or to complete certain tasks. Specific software applications allow these devices to "think" or at least mimic thought, making daily life easier for millions of people.

When AI is applied to healthcare, the results can be impressive, although fully implementing AI in this field has proceeded more slowly than expected. However, average people are beginning to better manage their healthcare through AI. Healthcare providers can also improve their standards of care by using AI diagnostically, in treatment, and for compliance.

IoT in Healthcare

Only recently has the promise of IoT in healthcare begun to live up to the hype of the last decade or so. Experts note several advancements that are greatly improving patient outcomes. For instance, remote monitoring techniques allow medical professionals to track patient health through the use of body sensors and/or smartphones. This technology allows doctors to immediately respond to sudden changes in chronic conditions like diabetes. Those with limited mobility and people in remote areas can significantly benefit from these IoT devices and software.

Surgical robots already exist and are largely used as assistants to improve patient care. By 2020, experts predict that these devices will be advanced enough to allow surgeons to be much more precise, often through enhanced vision technology. Currently, the Da Vinci surgical system offers a magnified 3D HD vision system that has already been embraced by the medical community.

IoT in healthcare also provides various self-care tools for people to help them manage aspects of their own healthcare. The future will bring more of these benefits, but IoT has already provided helpful applications to medicine, including healthcare compliance programs.

Vitalacy Technology

Vitalacy uses both AI and IoT technologies to monitor and promote proper hygiene, which is vital to preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Proper hygiene is particularly important for healthcare professionals, since unwashed hands lead to a higher percentage of dangerous infections among patients. In the past, outbreaks of hospital infections have been traced to certain staff members failing to wash their hands properly. Education alone has not worked. Despite individuals knowing the value of hand hygiene in medical settings, some staff members, including doctors and nurses, become lax in this area.

Vitalacy has created an effective system that helps ensure workers wash their hands frequently. Employees wear a special wristband, and various points of service are established throughout a clinic or hospital. When the employee approaches the point of service, the wristband tells him if he has missed a hand wash. A sensor in the dispenser keeps track of the number of hand washes, and the individual wristbands track the length of the wash. Each wearer then receives feedback on his or her washing practices.

The gateways manage all the wristband devices and then send the data to a cloud database where interested parties can analyze the results. A web application gives both users and employers key information on the staff's hand hygiene. As a result, individuals are made accountable for their hand hygiene habits. If compliance is lacking, management can take steps to remedy the situation and protect their patients.

Often, the automatic reminders lead individuals to improve their compliance and develop better hygiene practices without input from management. In addition, a mobile app allows employees to track their hand hygiene compliance no matter where they are. Vitalacy provides the tools that improve safety for patients and staff by encouraging a healthier work environment.

Artificial intelligence and IoT are becoming a bigger part of advanced medical care. Medical professionals and patients should not be hesitant to embrace this technology. In the past, some professionals have been reluctant to let a "machine" think for them because they picture humans being relegated to lesser roles.

No software application will ever replace human care, but they can be valuable tools for patient treatment, diagnosis and research. AI already plays a part in various aspects of healthcare, including compliance. Companies such as Vitalacy are on the front lines of providing practical AI applications for today's healthcare facilities. Everyone benefits from a judicious use of this technology.

Beth has worked for a major medical publisher as a journal issue manager and also spent several years employed by a major American health insurance company.

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