Digitally connected devices are getting a lot of attention in the medical and healthcare community.
In a report published last year, analysts at Goldman Sachs predicted that devices connected digitally to form the Internet of Things (IoT), could lead to $300 billion in savings for the healthcare industry.
The report predicts the savings will be driven by opportunities for remote patient monitoring and telemedicine that will reduce the amount of treatment needed while still improving patient health outcomes.
With visions of glucose-sensing contact lenses, pill cameras, and stickers that check your vital signs, the buzz surrounding Healthcare IoT is understandable. However, to focus on devices alone is to miss the point. The technology is undoubtedly amazing, but the digital healthcare revolution won’t be driven by devices; it will be driven by people.
Changing human behavior will be the beating heart of the revolution. For patients, care providers, and loved ones, Healthcare IoT will be a catalyst for clearer understanding, streamlined communication, and increased efficiency.
Healthcare IoT won’t fundamentally change providers’ approach to patient care, but it will bolster this approach with meaningful new data. Fitness trackers like Fitbit, Jawbone, and the Apple Watch are just the beginning. As Healthcare IoT evolves, connected devices will continuously track patient vitals, diet, stress levels, and more, instantly sharing this data with care providers.
This data will fill in the gaps for health information that providers can’t currently detect or that falls through the cracks of patient self-reporting. With a complete picture of patient health, care providers can more effectively advise on treatment and prevention. This enhanced expertise will be a driving force in the projected $300 billion industry savings.
Furthermore, with the rise of Healthcare IoT, industry operations will be streamlined so that care providers can focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks. With connected devices automatically tracking and storing patient data, providers will spend less time on assessment and administrative paperwork and more time understanding and treating patients.
And if telemedicine and data-driven preventive techniques indeed increase with Healthcare IoT, providers will see fewer total patients daily and therefore will have more time to care for the ones they do.
The rise of Healthcare IoT will insert helpful devices seamlessly into patients’ lives, inspiring new behaviors that will improve patient health and reduce industry costs. Telemedicine and connected devices will empower patients to communicate with their care providers at any time, removing big hurdles that keep people from receiving care like the time needed to visit a doctor or the difficulty of explaining a symptom. (Now, just share data from device or snap a picture!)
As Healthcare IoT makes it easier for patients to receive care, patients will be more likely to do so, thus reducing the overall number of patients who delay seeking care until care is extremely expensive and lowering industry treatment costs.
In a more subtle psychological benefit, Healthcare IoT will also contribute to improved patient health outcomes by making patients aware of their own health. Before the digital healthcare revolution, the average person had minimal insight into her own health. Now that patients can track their fitness, health, and vitals through connected devices, they’ll be more aware of their own health on a daily basis, and this awareness will—consciously or subconsciously—drive healthier habits.
Patient health outcomes aren’t just driven by patients and their care providers. When they’re not with their doctors, patients are greatly influenced by the support communities that make up their day-to-day lives. These family members, friends, and neighbors can often be the driving factor behind patient success or failure at diet, exercise, or medication programs required for optimal health.
As patients themselves have greater access and understanding of health data, so too will these support communities, and in turn they’ll be better able to support patient health. Healthcare IoT also creates opportunities for shared group incentives, like fitness leaderboards that compare members activity each week, that can give communities incentives to stay healthy together.
Examining how Healthcare IoT will impact health awareness and behavior for patients, care providers, and loved ones, it’s clear that the digital healthcare revolution will be sparked by connected devices, but will, ultimately, be driven by people.