Smart home gadgets, connected vehicles, supply chain analytics, agriculture, smart energy grids…
Nearly every industry has been touched by the rise and proliferation of IoT, but which one will experience a paradigm shift? Arguably, the cost and complexity of healthcare have skyrocketed in past decades, but developments in IoT for healthcare (IoHT) hold great promise. The potential is centered around the concepts of IoT-driven telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM). Telehealth and RPM could deliver the same quality of health care in the home as in the hospital at a lower cost and while making health care more accessible to remote locations.
There’s a new category of connected health devices that are emerging around RPM—a category that blends two historically distinct worlds:
1) Consumer wearables
2) Regulated medical devices
These new innovations not only enrich the lives of patients around the world but also directly affect the everyday health-conscious consumer. They introduce a world that truly marries the ease-of-use and wearability of popular consumer devices, such as Fitbit and Garmin, with the accuracy and quality of doctor-prescribed equipment like the Holter monitor. Exciting as they may be, RPM comes with its own fair share of challenges.
Challenge #1: Wearability
With thousands of wearable connected devices on the market—everything from fitness trackers, smart clothing, connected football helmets, smart glasses and more—it’s easy to see why wearability is so imperative. To start with, it’s right there in the name. A wearable must be, well, wearable. Simply put, if the patient doesn’t wear it, it won’t work. These newly enhanced IoHT devices overcome healthcare wearability challenges by utilizing form factors that both feature advanced sensors and are also consumer-friendly.
Challenge #2: IoT Telehealth Data Quality
Data quality is another major hurdle. Most consumer health wearables lack the quality of data required for clinical environments. In addition to using high-quality sensors, getting regulatory clearance by groups like the FDA is a way to vet the claims these devices advertise—an important step in guarding the IoT telehealth devices market against industry-compromising hacks and bogus devices.
As this new generation of IoHT devices come to market, the future of visiting the doctor looks very different from today. Quality medical data on patients’ vitals and other relevant healthcare data can be gleaned from these wearables, allowing consultations to take place remotely. With comprehensive patient data available to both patient and doctor, reliable telehealth solutions become not only more efficient but also more accessible to all.
The New Connected Device
Proof that the new connected device market is truly empowering the concept of IoT telehealth can be seen in the growing number of FDA-approved devices being introduced to the general consumer market.
Withings exemplifies a mainstream consumer company that was able to leap successfully into the regulated IoTHC market. The company launched an FDA-approved blood pressure cuff that allows doctors to review snapshots of a patient’s blood pressure remotely without forcing the patient to come into the office every time the doctor needs a reading.
Eversense, the implantable continuous glucose monitoring system from Senseonics, recently received FDA clearance as well. Glucose monitoring, even with the developments of new sensor-based technologies, has maintained its reputation of generally being a hassle. It promises an upgraded, hassle-free monitoring experience for the patient, and data accuracy that meets your physician’s needs.
Sufferers of chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy have also benefited from the increased dependability of connected healthcare devices. Empatica’s Embrace smart band for epilepsy does more than monitor seizures; it also tracks activity, sleep, and other areas that can impact episodes that are difficult for a parent to convey an accurate picture of to a doctor. The FDA-approved device has attracted the likes of NASA and top children’s hospitals by offering a solution a child will wear, parents will monitor, and doctors can trust.
Fever Scout tackles monitoring a vital sign that needs continuous attention: body temperature. Fever is often one of the first signs of infection in the body. Body temperature fluctuates constantly. The device, FDA-approved for adults and children, isn’t limited to the US; it’s currently available in several other countries as well.
The impact of IoT on the healthcare industry shows no signs of slowing. As market need is increasingly recognized, more companies are creating reliable connected devices that are taking the idea of dependable IoT telehealth technologies from dream to reality.
Written by Jiang Li, CEO of VivaLNK.