How IoT Is Enabling the Telemedicine of Tomorrow

IoT is ushering in the future of telemedicine. From real-time health monitoring to preventive care to empowering our elders to receive better care at home, the future of IoT-powered telemedicine holds promise.

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Telemedicine is an increasingly popular method of providing healthcare remotely. There are several ways the IoT is enhancing telemedicine, helping providers offer a quality of care that’s potentially better than many in-person treatment modalities.

Helping Seniors Age in Place

Many older people understandably want to age in their homes instead of moving to assisted living facilities. Aging in place (i.e. at home) and doing it safely means being aware of resources that range from community social groups to meal delivery services. However, IoT and telemedicine will likely also play roles in empowering seniors to live out their golden years well.

Many household gadgets have sensors that cater to elder people, making the aging process safer with fewer hassles. Voice-activated smart speakers, for example, let individuals turn on lights or adjust thermostats with their voice. Users can also order things through speech-enabled eCommerce devices (e.g. Alexa), allowing users to avoid going to the store or running out of items.

Concerning telemedicine, drug delivery services could increase medication compliance among elder people as well as other demographic groups. One option is Pillsy, a smart medication bottle that connects to an app. It reminds people to take their medicines, warns them against taking double doses, and has a sharing feature that tells loved ones if the patient doesn’t take their pills as prescribed.

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first ingestible medication tracking device for people taking Abilify, a prescription medicine often prescribed for mental health issues like bipolar disorder and depression (but not dementia-related psychosis). The pills have sensors that interact with patches worn by patients. Then, those people and their caregivers can track when they take medicines.

Also, physicians should not assume it isn’t appropriate or ideal to suggest IoT devices to older adult patients due to perceived technophobia. A case study about elder people using telemedicine during emergency room visits found the participants were generally willing to try telemedicine and were satisfied with their experiences.

Letting Doctors Get Data From Medical Devices

One of the known obstacles of telemedicine is that although doctors can examine a rash on someone’s skin or notice that a person has pale, sweaty skin, they cannot always listen to someone’s heart or take their blood pressure as easily via telemedical systems. If doctors feel confident in patients’ competency levels, however, they might ask patients to measure their pulse rates if they have blood pressure cuffs at home.

CyberMed wants to blend IoT and telemedicine and let people use medical devices made for the company’s patients. People buy items like digital stethoscopes or pulse oximeters—and may get the costs covered by insurance—then use them during their telemedicine appointments. The collected data gets transmitted to the cloud for nearly-instantaneous evaluation by the physician.

Wearability and data quality are two challenges facing IoT and telemedicine, and they relate to each other. After all, if a person doesn’t wear an IoT device—or worse, wears it incorrectly—the data quality will be subpar and/or misleading. CyberMed’s approach attempts to address the wearability and data quality issues by allowing doctors to get information without requiring constant use of the gadgets. Moreover, a person could receive in-the-moment coaching from the doctor about how to use the medical devices to obtain the best readings.

Before any health facility finalizes offering telemedicine to patients, it’s essential to schedule a telemedicine evaluation to have a professional appraiser determine the fair market value for the proposed services. Then, that entity can make crucial business decisions, including setting salaries for doctors who take part in telemedicine.

Telemedicine is already taking off in the marketplace. IoT is helping this patient care evolution happen faster than ever. Soon, people will have more options for getting treatment and may not even need to leave their homes to receive medical care. Soon, the need to drive to a doctor and sit in a waiting room could become a rarity. 

Peace of Mind Through Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring isn’t new. It already helps today’s doctors make well-informed diagnoses. For example, a physician may not detect a cardiac arrhythmia in an exam room, but a patient might be asked to wear a Holter monitor for a 24-hour period or longer to detect abnormalities that occur over time. 

The above situation may still exist in the IoT era, but technology has made it such that people can take more control over their health—especially in between office visits. Folks may be able to avoid rushing to urgent care centers during an emergency, opting instead to seek help via telemedicine.

CliniCare sells a stethoscope and thermometer for home use. The technology seems similar to the gadgets used by CyberMed, but the difference lies in being able to take a more proactive approach before telemedicine visits take place. The CliniCare products connect to an app that measures changes in heart rate, breathing patterns, and body temperature.

Additionally, CliniCare partnered with Doctor On Demand, meaning that users will soon be able to access telemedical care while using IoT gadgets. If a person is concerned by their health data, they can schedule a telemedicinal visit. The CliniCare app conveniently transmits its data to a telemedicine provider or another doctor as needed.

Doctor On Demand also offers flat rates for patient visits, which helps people budget if they don’t have insurance. Now, many people avoid doctor visits because of scheduling issues, fears about the inability to pay for services or because they feel too sick to travel to an office. Telemedicine reduces those challenges while IoT allows for better monitoring that could make emergencies infrequent.

IoT Will Spur the Continual Progress of Telemedicine

Telemedicine has drastically changed access to medical care. Now, thanks to IoT, the telemedicine industry will see even more improvements that help doctors care for their patients across space and time.