How IoT Medical Devices Save and Improve Lives

How IoT Medical Devices Save and Improve Lives
How IoT Medical Devices Save and Improve Lives

The following is a guest article by Erik Kling, Interim Head of IoT Americas at Vodafone Business.

IoT, or the Internet of Things, has transformed our homes with connected lights and smart appliances. It’s also revolutionized all areas of business, including manufacturing. Sensors connected to the internet can track goods throughout the supply chain — from sourcing materials to delivering completed products to consumers.

IoT technology has improved the way we live, but its most profound impact may be in healthcare, where it’s saving lives and improving health.

Before IoT revolutionized healthcare, doctors and care providers were limited to in-person visits, texts, and telehealth. Patients had to take time out of their day to journey to their care facilities for routine visits. Now, monitoring via IoT allows patients to remain at home while doctors remotely and continuously monitor patient progress.

Healthcare devices represent one of the fastest-growing IoT sectors, and it’s predicted to reach $176 billion by 2026. Use cases appear endless: The technology is used in hospital and home settings. Patients can use IoT to perform self-maintenance, and the elderly can use IoT wearables to communicate with care providers during an emergency.

Thanks to IoT, interactions with doctors are much easier – care providers have more gathered data, and patients have more control over their health. In addition, because patients can use the devices in their homes, IoT prevents longer stays at care facilities and reduces inconveniences and treatment costs.

Here are a few examples of healthcare IoT that can help guard our health.

Connected Defibrillators Save Lives

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) causes about 20 percent of all deaths in Europe. In the United States, it kills about 400,000 people yearly — more deaths than from breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined.

You may be familiar with the sight of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in gyms and public spaces ‑ devices that deliver an electric shock from the chest to the heart. That’s where the Elliot, the automated external defibrillator by the startup HeartHero, enters into the mix as only AED partnered with the American College of Cardiology.

When you put the HeartHero Elliot pads on the patient, it analyzes the heart rhythm. Then, it puts the gathered information through an AI algorithm and determines if a shock is needed. In addition, because of its onboard connectivity, the Elliot can auto-notify emergency services and provide the GPS location of the patient. It also provides near real-time data and information to the physician for enhanced clinical decision-making. Dr. Ami Bhatt (chief innovation officer, American College of Cardiology) states she only sees about 2 percent of the initial rhythms from a cardiac arrest from AEDs. Gathering IoT data can bring about a pivotal shift in treating SCAs.

The HeroHero Elliot’s onboard IoT also solves a longstanding problem: The device is continuously monitored to ensure it’s in working condition. For their part, older AEDs were notorious for malfunctioning devices. Rather than assume legal liability because a device malfunctioned, many corporations have been reluctant to have an AED on hand.

The lack of ready access to AEDs is a tragedy because, according to one small study in Japan, if shocks are delivered within 2.2 minutes, one hundred percent of lives are saved. With IoT and many more AEDs in the workplace and the home, many lives will be saved.

IoT Stops the Pinpricks

Diabetic patients have traditionally had to prick their fingertips to test their blood glucose levels. While this method works, it has major drawbacks: It only gauges glucose levels at a single moment in time. There’s also the problem of the prick itself — some patients who wish to avoid the pain of a daily pinprick may be driven to check their blood less frequently than they ought to.

Without access to continuous real-time data, patients can have extreme swings in glucose levels that cause disorientation, unconsciousness or even death. IoT-based continuous glucose monitoring systems measure glucose levels. They can also administer the required dosage of insulin. Thanks to IoT, diabetes management is safer and more accessible.

IoT Helps You to Sleep Through the Night

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that causes interrupted breathing while the patient tries to sleep. Sleep apnea is often untreated and undetected ‑ , even though it affects about one billion people. Those with the disorder experience excessive daytime sleepiness, leading to impaired judgment, attention deficits, slower reaction times, and decreased alertness.

Effective sleep apnea therapy includes using CPAP equipment, which provides a constant stream of air to patients so their airways remain open while they sleep. CPAP machines were around before the onset of IoT, but it wasn’t easy for doctors to retrieve data from the devices so they could discover how well patients have progressed in their therapies.

IoT-enhanced CPAP machines allow doctors to monitor patient progress remotely. Doctors can change device settings while also checking on patient compliance. With this information, doctors can know which patients require additional support while using their CPAP machines because patients frequently discontinue the product. Hopefully, this feature will reduce patient drop-outs and improve overall patient health.

IoT provides healthcare providers with the additional data they need to assess how their patients are doing – and the results have been transformational. As a specialist in IoT Business Development, I have great hope for IoT to improve our health.

The benefits of healthcare IoT are real – and we’re only just getting started.

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