IoT in Healthcare: From Clinics to Mobile Apps
The Internet of Things has a lot to offer to many industries, with healthcare being amongst the ones that benefit the most. Probably, it’s not the variety of devices itself but how useful and multi-purpose they are.
Take heart rate tracking devices. They’re suitable for private use while exercising, for example. Hospitals and physicians can also use them to track their patients’ well-being and health state. Moreover, health insurance companies can tailor their insurance plans to the needs of their clients if users decide to share such data.
So, whatever business you have, it’s likely that you can use IoT healthcare devices to provide better services. Luckily, you don’t have to bother building your own IoT device — there are hundreds of third-party providers you can partner up with.
In this article, we’ll talk about how the Internet of Things can be used in the healthcare market, what it “brings to the table” to businesses in the industry, and what providers of devices and APIs there are. Additionally, we’ll talk about our expertise with IoT healthcare devices and answer some of the most popular questions on this topic! 🚀
📄 IoT in Healthcare: Use Cases
The Internet of Things has 4 primary areas of use in the healthcare industry:
- patients’ private use;
- insurance companies.
Plus, we’ll talk about interesting examples of how IoT is used for each one of the use cases.
IoT for Patients’ Private Use
This group of users mostly benefits from small wearables that they carry around or have on throughout the day without experiencing major inconveniences. For example, bands and bracelets, rings, headbands, glucometers, or maybe even subdermal devices.
The main health metrics that can be tracked are heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, various activity tracking like steps and walking distance, calorie count, etc.
Apart from that, patients can also use such devices to oversee their elder relatives. For example, if they require urgent medical attention and nobody’s around to notice it, the device and notify users about the issue so they take actions accordingly.
There are also patients with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes. They benefit from IoT healthcare devices a lot since it helps with tracking the course of the condition and thus, helps to improve treatment.
Private usage is closely connected with fitness and exercising since a lot of these metrics play a crucial role in customizing workouts. In fact, we have a separate article dedicated to the IoT in the fitness industry if you’d like to learn more specifics about the topic:
Let’s take a look at the first case study of how IoT healthcare devices can be privately used:
|QardioCore: Case Study|
|This device is designed for people to monitor their health conditions (chronic ones or those in acute conditions). It’s great for private use since people can simply tie it around their chest and wear it anywhere from a gym to an office. The functionality includes monitoring indicators like blood pressure, levels of cholesterol, etc. Additionally, users can set up automatic data transmission to healthcare institutions that they go to without having to book physical appointments.|
IoT for Healthcare Professionals
Another target audience of IoT healthcare devices is medical professionals who use such devices in their work. Surely, the main purpose of it is remote monitoring of the patients.
With the help of them, they can track how patients’ bodies respond to certain treatments, or change of them, whether or not it has any damaging side effects, etc. Practically, it's a 24/7 overview of patients’ health to make sure that everything goes as prescribed.
Additionally, physicians can get notified if a patient requires immediate medical help. Take stroke, for example. Often, such a condition occurs without people noticing it at all, but a high-quality IoT healthcare device can track even the smallest abnormalities and report them to physicians.
Physicians or nurses can also use the devices to remind patients to take medications in case they forget about that. For example, if a patient forgets to tick off a certain meds intake and the doctor notices it, they can send them an additional reminder through a dedicated app (which a lot of IoT devices come with to enable the device’s control).
Surely, there are also devices for automated patient onboarding, which includes getting to know patients’ medical history, navigating through clinics’ services and available medical procedures, billing them for services, performing medical insurance-related operations, etc.
The next case study is dedicated to how healthcare professionals can use wearable alarms:
|Zanthion: Case Study|
|This device is like a wearable alert system that nurses who provide home care can give out to their clients to wear around their neck, for example. The idea is that if a patient that the nurse takes care of falls out of the bed, doesn't move for a long time, or has abnormal health indicators, the device will send an alarm to nurses or other clinic workers.|
IoT for Hospitals
Hospitals can use IoT devices the same way as physicians, however, there are much more use cases that are unique to hospitals. Firstly, clinics can use it for keeping track of medical equipment and hospital machinery using devices with location tracking functionality. Plus, such devices can be attached to wheelchairs to ensure the security of those patients who use them.
Such devices are generally really useful for organizational purposes since there are a lot of them targeted at automating managerial tasks like registering people entering the hospital, tracking employees working hours, etc.
Another major use case is hygiene controlling and monitoring. This means that whenever there’s a spread of any infection or concentration of bacteria, the IoT devices with scanners determine it and notify the employees.
Last but not least, such devices can be used for inventory and environmental management like keeping track of drugs, checking temperatures in refrigerators or other temperature-dependent machines, controlling humidity, etc.
Let’s take a look at a fascinating IoT-based device that’s perfectly suitable for hospitals:
|UroSense: Case Study|
|UroSense is a smart catheter that hospitals with inpatient facilities can use to reduce the risk of urinary infection. The device measures core body temperature and urine output; both of them can indicate infections. Apart from that, hospitals can use it to measure diabetes- and prostate cancer-related health indicators.|
IoT for Health Insurance Companies
Clients’ health data collected via IoT healthcare devices can be used by insurers for multiple purposes. Firstly, it’s useful when underwriting treatments and for claiming operations. This is a great way to make sure that there’s no fraud from the side of clients.
However, it’s important here to still provide needed medical attention since not every condition can be detected by smart devices. Even though implementation of such devices would bring transparency to the insurance company-client relationship, each body is unique and requires a personalized approach.
But before getting the data, it’s important to make your clients willing to share it. For that matter, you can use various gamification features and incentives like merch, discounts, special insurance plans, unique icons and stickers for the app, etc.
To sum it all up, all healthcare industry stakeholders benefit from IoT devices in some way or another. Depending on what a certain device serves, the advantages can vary from cost reduction asset management automation to significant treatment improvements and faster diagnosis.
|Navina: Case Study|
|Navina is originally a tool for physicians that analyzes patient history by summarizing their previous tests and highlighting the most important aspects. However, health insurance companies can use it to analyze how “risky” their potential clients are and adjust cooperation with them respectively, be it price, subscription plans, length of the contract, etc.|
🤖 IoT Tech Stack for the Healthcare Industry
So you can utilize all the above-mentioned benefits of smart healthcare devices, it’s important to choose trustworthy and reliable providers (in case you’re not the one building the device from scratch).
In this section, we’ll talk about what options there are on the market and how to choose the most suitable provider. In case you’re building your own device, it still could be useful to read through this section so as to get inspired by the ideas of other providers!
Fitness-Related Activity Trackers & Wearable Medical Devices
Generally, most fitness trackers and smartwatches can play this role without any additional devices. However, there are dedicated devices that track heart rate, saturation, calorie tracking, body composition, sleep, etc. The main benefit of such devices is that they allow more precise measurement, compared to regular fitness bands.
As for smartwatches with such functionality, there are multiple solutions from world-famous providers — Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, Garmin, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, and many others. There are also more affordable options from Xiaomi, Huawei or Wyze.
However, for healthcare matters, you might want something dedicated, something you can be 99,9% sure will measure precisely. A dedicated device for heart rate monitoring is provided by Polar, for example. What’s great about the Polar sensor is that you can connect it to other smart devices via Bluetooth and ANT+ (wireless data transferring protocols). A similar band can be bought from Peloton.
Plus, it doesn't necessarily have to be a wristband. Wahoo is one of those companies that offer chest straps for heart tracking.
Some companies offer dedicated tracking devices for various kinds of sports. Even though a lot of them are designed for running and cycling, you can definitely find something for any sporting activity. Garmin, for example, offers HRW-Swin chest straps for swimmers.
There are devices for tracking other health indicators as well:
- Saturation: Vive Health, iChoice. These devices are smart finger clips.
- Body composition: most smart devices in this category are smart scales — Renpho, Xiaomi, Wyze. We should mention though that there’s controversy within the community on how precise such scales can function.
- Sleep: Oura Ring, Sleepon, Sleepscore devices.
Patient Control & Remote Monitoring
Apart from monitoring generic health metrics that we talked about in the first section, some patients require special monitoring and attention because of their medical conditions, including chronic ones. Luckily, the IoT in the healthcare industry has enough devices to offer for most chronic diseases.
COPD and Asthma
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are amongst the top 4 most prevalent chronic diseases (most research pieces put COPD or asthma on the list, depending on the region).
The main way of dealing with such diseases so that people can have normal lives is inhalers. Nowadays, the IoT industry offers multiple smart inhalers that work via the dedicated app. Let’s take a closer look at these options.
The first provider we’d like to mention is Digihaler. There are two smart inhalers from the company — AirDuo and ProAir. The first one is targeted at 12-year-olds or older to control asthma symptoms and prevent signs of pulmonary disease such as wheezing, for example. ProAir is suitable for a younger audience (4+ years old) and has special emphasis on preventing and relieving bronchospasms.
The functionality includes keeping track of inhaler usage frequency and inhalation strength, getting instant feedback based on such data, and visualizing dynamics to track deteriorations as well as improvements.
Another stakeholder that works with both asthma and COPD is Propeller. The main difference for the previous provider is that the company offers attachable sensors, meaning you can use it with any inhaler of your choice. The functionality varies from inhalation counter to analyzing reasons for symptom flare ups.
It additionally provides location tracking so you can find your inhaler or sensor if you lose them, inhalation reminder, air quality analysis, and weather-related and seasonal recommendations.
Diabetes is (sadly) another widespread chronic disease — over 450M people suffer from this medical condition to a certain level. Luckily, the community’s actively working towards improving an already existing supply of smart diabetes management devices. Let’s talk about what’s already available on the market.
As of now, one of the most advanced smart technologies in the industry is sensors inserted under patients’ skin, with or without insulin pumps. We’re talking about Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) systems that allow measuring glucose level every couple of minutes throughout the whole day.
Medtronic provides one of the classic CGM smart systems. The device is suitable for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The functionality includes measuring glucose levels, predicting highs and lows, visualizing glucose levels dynamics, etc. Additionally, clients can purchase insulin pumps that will automatically control insulin levels and keep them on needed levels.
Omnipod also offers a whole insulin management system. The functionality is quite similar, tracking and controlling insulin levels, sending reminders, and so on. The amount of insulin that the device contains is enough for 3 days of continuous insulin issuing.
The next provider we’d like to talk about is Eversense. The company has been one of the first ones to offer smart CGM systems with implantable insulin pumps. What’s unique about the device is that it can last for up to 3 month without having to reinsert it.
Surely, all the data can be shared with a doctor and used for further treatment plan improvements or supportive therapies.
Most of us would agree that getting such invasive examinations as colonoscopy isn’t the most pleasant experience. Fortunately, the IoT industry has an alternative — small ingestible devices with sensors and cameras that allow doctors to diagnose patients without having to “invade” their guts.
The first provider we’ll talk about is Pillcam Colon from Medtronic. They offer a small capsule that scans, records, and takes pictures of the colon. After getting the data, the device immediately transfers it to a computer or other device.
There’s a technology called Ingestible Micro-Bio-Electronic Devices (IMBED). Firstly, it’s able to detect inner bleedings. The way such devices function is quite a complex scientific matter so we won’t get into detail here. Long story short, the devices contain biosensors that generate light when getting into contact with a certain bacteria. The light detector in the device catches it and then commands the transmitter to generate data and send it to the dedicated application on an external device.
You can take a look at the research we’ve used for this abstract by following this link.
Medication Intake Management
So that doctors don’t have to worry about patients taking the medications as prescribed, there are various IoT healthcare devices that help to manage this process. First, let’s talk about Pillsy. The company offers a smart pills bottle that works as an automatic dose tracking device. The functionality includes sending reminders to take the meds, double dose alerts, notifying the caregiver which can be set up in settings, location-based snoozing (if patients aren’t near their bottle, they’ll be notified once they’re in range).
Another option is the automatic medication dispenser from PharmRight called Livi. When it’s time to take the medication, the green button is supposed to light up (of course, the timing can be set up according to the doctor’s prescription). After users press the button, the meds get dispensed.
It has several dispensing modes and enables high-level customization, allowing to load up doses that should last up to 90 days of daily pills intake.
Technically, a lot of devices listed above can be used for elderly care, even though it’s not what they initially were designed for. Heart rate trackers can function well as devices for preventing heart diseases, especially strokes, which are more likely to happen to seniors.
Medication intake management systems are also perfectly suitable for older people since they suffer from problems with memories more often than younger people. Ingestible sensors are also a great solution for working with elderly — since the older people get, the lower their pain tolerance is (research paper on this statement). Meaning, physicians can avoid painful procedures by replacing them with innovative healthcare tech stack.
Additionally, you can partner with smart emergency button providers (like DevelCo or Akuvox) as part of the elderly case business if that’s your case. Such devices can be set up to send emergency signals to ambulance, police, other institutions, or designated users. This will notify them that the person requires immediate medical help if the person isn’t able to make a call, for example.
Clinics Management & Automation of Administrative Processes
Apart from monitoring and controlling patients’ health, there are many other areas where IoT devices can be very useful. The one we’d like to talk about is automating administrative tasks and asset management.
The first provider we’ll talk about is GYANT that offers chat-based AI products. It can be used to collect clients’ medical history, navigate them through available services, send follow-up questions regarding their well-being and treatment effectiveness, etc.
In fact, you don’t have to look for separate providers for different management purposes — there are multiple vendors that offer complex solutions that include most necessary devices for asset management. Let’s take Zebra as an example.
Their offer includes mobile computers to perform management, smart RFID sets (readers, sleds, and antennas), desktop and industrial RFID printers, etc.
CenTrak is another provider that has a whole lot of healthcare IoT solutions for asset management, hygiene control, infant security, environmental control, emergency and nurse calls automation, infection control, etc.
How to Choose Suitable IoT Healthcare Providers?
Finding the right partner with high-quality IoT devices is as important as perfectly planning out your own business. We’d recommend taking the following factors into account when looking for the partner:
- Price range.
- Post-contract support.
- Diversity of services.
- Reviews, feedback, and references.
- Onboarding guidance & others.
Apart from that, you might want to partner up with companies that have extensive experience in your business area and with your target audience. In case the company offers multiple devices as a package, make sure that it’s possible to buy them separately so you don’t have to pay for unnecessary devices (might seem obvious but not all companies have such an option).
As much as we’d like to know what’s the best provider for your use case, further research is inevitable. If you need more specific help with looking for an IoT healthcare device provider, feel free to contact us!
💼 IoT in the Healthcare Industry: Our Expertise
Our company has quite extensive expertise in integrating IoT healthcare devices with our clients’ solutions. So, in this section, we’ll talk about it using SportPlus (one of the projects that we’ve worked on) and share some insights with you.
SportPlus provides their clients exercise machines and equipment with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) modules, meaning that you can control them remotely using the dedicated SportPlus app.
The BLE modules collect users’ health data such as heart rate, calorie count, exercise history, dynamics of health metrics, etc. These modules then send the data to the app so users can conveniently access it and discuss it with their physicians if necessary.
However, before getting such health data was possible, we needed to make the app compatible with all of the devices. Initially, most of their fitness devices have different protocols (in other words, language that allows (interpretable) data exchange between machines and humans).
Luckily, each device had an app developed specifically for it. Thus, we were able to collect the data that was generated while using the exercise machines with an already functioning app, find out what protocol is used in each separate case, and set up the SportPlus app accordingly.
❓ FAQs on IoT in Healthcare
To provide you with more details on the topic, we’d like to cover some generic questions on this topic.
# 1: How to Deal with Patients’ Data Privacy?
An important matter when working with digital medical data of your patients’/clients’ is making sure that you use it according to applicable data privacy regulations. Some of the most important ones for healthcare businesses are GDPR and HIPAA.
Firstly, let’s talk about GDPR, which stands for General Data Protection Regulation. Basically, it wasn’t created for the healthcare industry specifically but still applied to any vendor that gathers data of EU citizens, even if the vendor itself is located outside of the Union.
This presentation visualizes some of the most important aspects of GDPR and its principles.
Another important regulation is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It standardizes health-related information protection and its management in the USA. It includes what treatment patients get prescribed, their condition itself (including its future improvement/depreciation), etc.
We have an article where we review these 2 regulations (plus PIPEDA) in detail and talk about how to comply with them if you’d like to have more information on this topic:
# 2: Is Building your own IoT Device Worth It?
To put it simply, our team believes that there are plenty of reliable third-party providers of IoT healthcare devices on the market so that you don’t have to build your own one. However, it surely is an option. Let’s talk about what you might need for it.
So, to build an IoT healthcare device of your own, you’ll need:
- Hardware elements like sensors and microchips.
- Make sure that each element is of good quality.
- Required technical and coding knowledge.
- To enable communication between your device and the app using a certain protocol (BLE, for example).
These are only a couple of actions — there’s much more to that. By partnering with a certain provider, you significantly reduce time-to-market and reduce costs.
But of course, there are definitely use cases when building your own device is the only option. For example, when there’s simply no such device on the market and you want to bring something completely unique to the market.
At the end of the day, it’s always up to you which way to go. As a development company, the Stormotion team would gladly help you make your ideas a reality!
So, the healthcare sector of the IoT industry is really diverse and has a lot to offer to businesses. By carefully choosing high-quality providers and using the right approach to implementing IoT devices into your workflow or client flow, you can significantly improve the quality of your services.
If you have any questions left or need help with the development of a dedicated app for your IoT healthcare device, feel free to contact us! 🚀