Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase on everyone’s lips, and interestingly, it has reached every nuance of every field. In healthcare, education, gaming, finance and several more, IoT has been gaining popularity rapidly since its inception into the IT world. And then there is another giant in the midst. AI or Artificial Intelligence has unimaginable potential and has already taken over everyday life. Combined with IoT, AI has taken over the essential part of several processes, right from data manufacturing to processing and analytics.
CES 2018 bore witness to several companies with their breakthrough innovations in the realm of diagnosing, monitoring and treating illnesses and jaw-breaking advancements in global disease cases, health care delivery, etc. AI assistants and chatbots are talking to patients regarding their symptoms and providing helpful insights to determine their health conditions. These incredible little helpers are freeing up doctors’ time and helping more people get timely care. The most interesting fact is that these helpers don’t grow old, nor do they get tired and errors are very, very minimal
Let’s get into this in greater detail. After all, it is really an incomparable innovation. The primary purpose of AI or technology in healthcare is to connect doctors with patients through a smart device, without restrictions. In fact, the patients might open up better, helping the doctors reach a better diagnosis faster. This leads to an empowerment of the consumer, with practically no inefficiencies, and the doctor invariably makes informed decisions through better connectivity, precision centered monitoring and information gathering.
IoHT has two very crucial purposes:
a) Improved disease management that provides better patient experience
b) Reduced healthcare costs so it's affordable for a wider demographic
For example, it is possible to record the movements of the patient, when he presses the call button, goes to the bathroom, hits the bed alarm, etc. The information pertaining to each activity is recorded by a device that evaluates the number of instances at which the patient needs assistance.
The machine learning data will be processed automatically and intelligently to know whether the patient is progressing towards wellness or deteriorating. This streamlined communication process ensures that the patient can avoid risks (or at least benefit from timely detection) and can go home sooner. IBM’s "Jeopardy!"-winning system, Watson, was a huge hit a few years back when it helped oncologists determine the best mode of treatment for cancer patients.
Data retrieval in such an intelligent manner has helped patients diagnose rare diseases in patients, and has even helped doctors detect secondary illnesses apart from those which the patient had been admitted with.
Crunch the figures and you will come up with interesting data on how IoHT is becoming a major and trustworthy ally in the field of medicine. According to recent studies, global Internet of Things in the healthcare market is slated to grow from $41.22 billion in 2017 to $158.07 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 30.8 percent. This is a perfect example depicting how pharmaceutical products are being planned, manufactured, used, stored and consumed by the population.
Some areas where IoT can make a significant difference to the healthcare business are:
Production -Data insights have been of crucial importance in the field of medicine production. Production managers go through over 200 variables to make sure a product is safe and effective, ensuring homogeneity in medicine and drug manufacturing. Data is very important as it helps in figuring out problems sooner and saves time and effort.
There's been an increased use of sensors in the production area which enables the aggregation of data from different departments and manufacturing plants. This means the manufacturing activities can be supervised at any time from any location. This kind of real-time monitoring ensures that wastage is minimized, equipment is properly utilized and production costs are lowered.
Quality -Companies are developing innovative practices to ensure the quality of drugs without any human intervention. Integrating the manufacturing equipment with sensors enables continuous quality checks that saves considerable time and manpower. IoT helps companies exercise stringent quality control methods in the production of medicines and medical devices, and it’s already been put into practice in India and abroad.
Transit management - Sensitive medicines and medicines with very short shelf-life can be protected through real-time monitoring of containers, and alerts are issued in case of unfavorable conditions.
Drug development - The entire process of medicine manufacturing has been entrenched in accuracy, while relevant technologies are used to keep it under budget. This entire process can be optimized through IoT enabled systems, including clinical trials where data devices are captured to report positive effects and highlight side effects. These insights aid in better patient monitoring.
Collaboration- Researchers, stakeholders, regulators all have access to the data made available through IoT. This aids in better collaboration among all of them, and they no longer have to painstakingly go through multiple logs offline.
Better patient outcomes - Patients and pharma companies can enjoy a number of short-term and long-term benefits. Medicines are brought to patients at reduced prices, making them affordable to a larger segment of the population.Better transit management of drugs, patient monitoring, excellent supply-demand balance and quality monitoring are all examples of this.
There are four layers of the architecture of IoT healthcare. Here they are:
1. Medical devices to connect and monitor - An integral layer in IoT is to introduce intelligent connected devices that would monitor the health of the patients, take readings, observe patterns and alert when there are imperfections in the patterns (the indication of an impending disease or worsening of condition). The patient can wear the device; he/she will be connected to the device through which it can monitor the status and patient vitals. It can remotely monitor at-risk patients, and even make informed decisions and prevent trips to the emergency room.
2. Multi-service gateway for IoT applications with remote management and wireless connectivity - This aids in onboard processing, data aggregation and data transfer perfect for M2M (machine to machine) solutions. Both web and mobile applications are developed to meet the needs of the hospital including doctors, laboratories and other services, and patients. The existing network technology will probably have to be perfected and upgraded to accommodate secure payment solutions. And this is a major help in monitoring patient data as well, where routers collect the data, and then upload it to a central repository dedicated to data collection.
3. M2M integration platform - Forbes believes that M2M is one among the fastest growing types of connected device technologies presently in the market. Presumably, because it can use any sensor to communicate, which means systems can monitor themselves while automatically responding themselves to changes in the environment. Human involvement is much less. And this would be of perfect help when patient communication is needed.
Through the M2M integration platform, companies can unleash a new generation of consumer-facing services in wearables and patient monitoring. It can collect patient-specific data, transport and analyze it right there in the field, and can react faster than even a medical professional. For example, if a patient’s vital signs drop, a device that’s connected to the cloud (private or public) can administer oxygen and provide additional care until healthcare professionals arrive on the scene. Through M2M technology, the patient doesn’t even have to be in the hospital to receive this kind of care. It can be done when the patient is at home.
4. Reminders/alerts, generating reports- Through the M2M integration platform, the data that’s collected, stored in the cloud would be analyzed and checked for patterns. If a patient has a doctor’s appointment on a particular day, the wearable device (worn by the patient) would remind him/her, send notifications and reminders. Same is the case with medicines as well. Patients don’t have to remember to take their medicines anymore.Leave it all to the wearable, and it would remind the patient to take his/her medication through reminders and alerts. Fitness tracking, social network connectivity, health and wellness monitoring are just a few of the benefits enjoyed through M2M integration platforms.
Healthcare providers can take full advantage of IoHT to make transcendental changes in the lives of patients. The level of healthcare provided to patients has improved considerably. With more connectivity, intelligent information gathering and remote monitoring made possible through judicious and studied use of healthcare resources, milestones are being covered. It shapes the field of healthcare in such a manner that there is a reduction in waste, with practically very little inefficiencies while empowering the health of consumers.
Here are some key areas in which healthcare is being shaped by IoHT:
Catering to the regulations - The pharmaceutical and medical device industries are evolving at a fast rate, but there is something they have to cater to as well - government regulations. While complying with the speed, safety, and flexibility of devices, they also have to comply with new class-based regulations that should be followed in the medical devices.
Increased demand of devices and equipment - While conferring to the changing regulations, the pharmaceutical companies have to cater to an ever-growing consumer requirement as well. There is a growing number of aging population, followed by increased insurance coverage rates and improved healthcare availability.
More contractors on the job -As medical companies are striving to meet the rising demand, contractors are diving in to fill the gaps.They are often successful in bringing out very advanced medical equipment, monitors, and sensors, and pharmaceutical companies hire them through the concept of virtual manufacturing. It allows them to operate without investing in the physical production of equipment. A portion of the production and manufacturing process is contracted out as the contractors have increased versatility in meeting patient requirements.
Providing personal sized care - The way in which the medical industry is working has shifted greatly. The focus is on delivering value-based healthcare through physical and data automation. There has been a change in the production focus too through faster production speeds, specialized packaging, shorter batches and so on.
Artificial intelligence has facilitated these changes, taking personalization several steps forward by coming up with non-user interface systems where the user no longer needs to type, but rather uses voice or natural language to communicate with the devices to activate their services.
Accenture Health made a study into this and they have come forward with the interesting prediction that by 2020, the estimated value of IoHT solutions in the healthcare field could reach $163 billion. The compound growth rate during 2015 to 2020 is slated to be 38.1%. The study has been based on the current demand for IoHT solutions and taking into account the future trends.
Here are the applications of IoHT with AI that are awaiting us in the healthcare Industry.
1. Consumer/Home Monitoring - Consumers can use IoHT devices for checking parameters like blood pressure, blood glucose level, heart rate act, and any spike or change in the normal levels will be identified and alerted before they become serious. It will help the healthcare professional to identify any problem or prevent the onset of any disease. This can be customized to the patient’s system while the sensor-fitted IoT devices can check for any variations in the normal functioning. Patient monitoring can be done remotely at home too. A good chunk of medical companies has invested in gear that can detect and identify cardiac conditions like congestive heart failure, and chronic respiratory conditions like COPD, cancer, and asthma.
2. Brain Sensors/ Neurotechnology -Novel electronic sensors are being installed in devices for brain activity monitoring. Neurotechnology is an innovative technique that uses electrical stimulation to understand the functioning of the nervous system and control it. It comes with technologies that can improve and repair brain function, and allows the medical professionals to visualize the brain. It could be in the form of specialized headsets with innovative software and neuroimaging systems and dry electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to track the brain and send signals to connected and paired smart devices.
How about having machines responding to thoughts? Neurotechnologyis really one of the biggest innovations that mankind has seen, wherein specialized software in the headset can interpret brain activity and convert it into commands. Through this technique, you can expect innovations in healthcare, surgeries and remote patient care. Surgeons can control a robotic arm for robotic surgery and perform their procedures with precision. Healthcare professionals can steer a wheelchair by simply “thinking” about it.
3. Fitness Wearables - Several companies are releasing fitness bands and smartwatches to track the health and activity of the wearer, and the information and data are exchanged between connected devices. And these can provide insights that have to remain undetected until now. Medical professionals make informed decisions based on these data, and have successfully prevented trips to the emergency room, saved lives, relapse of various conditions etc.
However, organizations will have to be geared to use the data because they come in huge volumes and are largely unstructured. They might need big data analytics solutions to collect them and make them compatible (easily view and document the data).
4. Infant Monitoring - SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a serious cause of infant death. It is practically impossible for a human to be with a baby 24/7, so wearable devices that can track the health of the child are very important. There are microcontroller-based hardware solutions that come integrated with state of the art sensors to check for parameters like heart rate, sleep position, breathing rate, etc. These sensors can also notify the parent or the medical professional of impending diseases and serious health conditions.
5. Sleep Monitoring - Wearable devices that can track the sleep patterns, the total time slept, waking hours, depth of sleep can actually say a lot about the person’s health. The data from an elderly person sent to a smart device will alert the relatives or healthcare professionals if and when there is something out of the way.This is because sleep monitors can detect medical disorders and alerts that the person needing timely care if a medical emergency is brewing.
6. Clinical-Grade Biometric Sensors - Throwing aside all the doubts as to whether a wearable device can provide accurate medical grade-data, Clinical-Grade Biometric Sensors are now placed very highly in the field of medicine. They can procure highly accurate and personalized data regarding a person’s health patterns in aperiodic, episodic, continuous, and/or static physiological data streams through digital representations. This is a whole new world of non-invasive body monitoring solutions that can track sleep, heart rate, calorie intake, sleep quality, blood lactate and plenty more. At-risk patients and persons in emergency medicine can really benefit from this.
MarketResearch.com says that the healthcare Internet of Things market is all set to hit $117 billion by 2020. And the combined IoT market will add up to more, much more than $117. By 2025, it is expected that the maximum value from healthcare would be valued at $2.5 trillion, followed closely by the manufacturing industry at $2.3 trillion, says Intel. About 30.3% healthcare is devoted to portable health monitoring, electronic record keeping, and pharmaceutical safeguards.
And perhaps that’s only a slice of what’s coming. The data that’s moving between and among devices and between and among people are aplenty. If you have elderly parents living alone, and you are worried about their health or safety, you can get an indication of their health condition by connecting devices with smart sensors that would send activity data to your device. This same data would be sent to their healthcare professional as well. This is perhaps only a tiny piece of what’s in store in the field of medicine in the future; we can definitely dream higher.
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