Telehealth, or providing health care services remotely, has exploded over the past few years. A growing number of people opt for virtual doctor’s visits, making medicine more accessible than ever, but telemedicine can still go further. The Internet of Things (IoT) could take telehealth to the next level. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth accounted for less than 1 percent of total healthcare volume in the U.S. Now, more than 70 percent of physicians say they are motivated to use it more, with 75 percent saying it helps them deliver better care. Using IoT devices to provide this virtual care could take its advantages further. Let’s take a look at some of these possibilities.
Remote Patient Monitoring
One of the biggest ways IoT can enhance telehealth services is by allowing medical professionals monitor patients remotely. Wearables can track signals like heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature and send them to doctors in real time. This provides doctors with a more complete picture of a patient’s health without an in-person checkup.
This real-time remote monitoring could provide a big boost to healthcare accessibility. Medicare now covers telehealth services, but many patients still have to make in-person visits if doctors need to check things like blood pressure. Wearables let doctors see that information remotely, helping people with limited mobility, tight schedules, or health concerns get help from wherever they are.
Similarly, health wearables could monitor patients’ health factors and alert people when they detect something unusual. They could also send these alerts to doctors and other medical professionals. Quicker treatments will also lead to improved outcomes. Gadgets like Life Alert let patients contact emergency services with the press of a button, but wearables could do it automatically. They could also respond to a broader range of issues. The only limits are the kinds of data these devices can detect, which will naturally increase as the technology advances.
On a less urgent note, IoT could alert patients when they should take their medication. About 40-50 percent of people with prescriptions for chronic conditions don’t take all doses or take them when they should. Medical wearables could keep track of medication schedules so patients don’t have to. They could remind people when it is time to take a specific medication and tell them how much to take. Some sensors could even detect if someone has missed a dose and send that information to their primary care providers. If an issue arises, it will be easier to narrow down potential causes.
Future Possibilities for Advancement
New possibilities for telehealth could emerge as IoT technology advances. Instead of simply reminding people to take their medication, wearables could deliver it by using microscopic needles to inject the proper dosage at the right time. Many insulin pumps already do this, and new wearables could expand the concept to different conditions and medicines. Future IoT technologies could go even further and let doctors perform some operations remotely. Remote-controlled robotics could let individuals worldwide receive care from leading surgeons. These devices likely won’t populate homes, but keeping them in medical centers could help improve global access to quality care. It may not be what people imagine when thinking of telehealth today, but it could save lives.
The Power of IoT & Telehealth
Bringing IoT to telehealth is a natural step. The remote connectivity and data collection of this technology make it ideal for enabling and expanding telemedicine services. Patients around the globe will benefit as more medical organizations realize these benefits. Telehealth itself is still fairly new but has seen impressive growth in a short time. Combining it with IoT devices will take that growth further, kicking off a new era of healthcare accessibility.