Three Ways Machine-To-Machine Is Impacting Healthcare

Guest post by Will Hayles, technical writer and blogger, Outscale.

Will Hayles
Will Hayles

We tend to conceive of the Internet as a place of human communication. In reality, a significant proportion of the traffic carried over the networks that comprise the Internet is generated by machines talking to other machines. For the most part, there is no human in the loop of these so called machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions. Data is gathered from sensors attached to devices which are connected to the Internet. That data it is stored and analyzed in the cloud. Only at the end of the process is a human involved, once the deluge of data generated by machines has been squeezed down to extract useful information.

To take a simple example of how machine-to-machine processes can deliver useful information to human decision makers and system designers, consider a pet store that specializes in selling tropical fish. The store has several dozen aquariums filled with sensors that report the nutrient content and chemical composition of the water — data that is stored on a cloud platform. Another system records the store’s purchases, stock levels and waste. An analytics solution designed by the store’s developers takes both sets of data and tries to develop feeding and water treatment regimens that reduce waste (dead fish) and increase yield (fish growth). Every day, workers at the store get a list of tasks generated by the system — perhaps one of the aquariums is slightly too acidic and action needs to be taken or waste will increase.

The bulk of the communication is machines talking to machines, the culmination of which could be a text message that instructs the fish store owner to add three drops of a particular chemical to a specific tank.

Now that you have a basic grasp of the fundamental idea of M2M communication, let’s focus on how it is being used in the healthcare sector to improve patient outcomes and increase spending efficiency.

Information Sharing

Healthcare treatments often involve many different professionals, from general practitioners to specialists, and from radiologists to physiotherapists. Complex cases can require input and decisions from a dozen or more individuals across several institutions. To be effective, it’s essential that healthcare professionals have access to up-to-date and comprehensive information about the case. With paper record keeping, it’s all too easy for information to fail to reach the right person at the right time. M2M systems, in which relevant data, including test results and real-time monitoring, are made available to all stakeholders simultaneously and automatically can make a real difference to healthcare outcomes, radically increasing the efficiency and efficacy of treatment regimes.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is the classic case for M2M communication. With the advent of sensor-equipped medical devices with internet connectivity, patient status can be monitored in realtime, with physicians and other healthcare professionals receiving alerts when a decision or action needs to be taken.

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Cloud-Powered Wearables To Revolutionize Healthcare Industry

Guest post by Will Hayles, technical writer and blogger, Outscale.

Will Hayles
Will Hayles

Last year, 2014, was the year the wearables market really took off. No end of wearable technologies were released, each promising to hook users into the personal analytics and quantified self trends. Of course, many of those releases went nowhere, and even some of the big companies saw their wearable devices fizzle rather than pop — the obvious example being Google Glass, which received an unprecedented amount of attention, much of which was negative. But there were many successes, and later this year Apple will be entering the fray with the Apple Watch and its bundle of sensors.

Last year the wearables industry was worth around $2.8 billion. Over the next five years it’s expected be to worth more than $8.3 billion. But there is a market with the potential to dwarf the consumer fitness monitoring market, and that’s chronic illness management, which has, unfortunately, if understandably, seen far less attention from startups. As J.C. Herz notes in a Wired article on the subject, the entire market for fitness trackers is vastly outstripped by the size of the market for blood glucose test strips, which are an essential tool in the monitoring of diabetes.

Herz takes a harsh tone with an industry that has failed to focus research and development on solutions for people who stand to benefit the most, but I’m more optimistic. Healthcare outside of the fitness sphere is a difficult market, with a heavy — and necessary — regulatory burden and entrenched ideas about treatment and patient monitoring. Unity Stoakes, co-founder of StartUp Health, recognizes both the challenges and the potential for innovation that can significantly improve people’s lives:

“Unlike other industries, healthcare is plagued by regulation and longer product development timelines. Bringing successful products to market is challenging for both large industry players and digital health entrepreneurs. Startups need access to advisors, peers and dollars, while large companies need ‘batteries included’ entrepreneurs fueling innovation. The unprecedented level of change gripping the healthcare industry today presents both challenges and opportunities for both.”

There is recognition both within the healthcare industry and among technology companies that monitoring tools and other applications of wearable and mobile technology offer an opportunity to substantially change healthcare and the lives of people who suffer with chronic illnesses.

According to a recent study from the Health Research Industry, 42 percent of healthcare providers are comfortable relying on at-home test results for prescriptions. Sixty-six percent thought mobile solutions have the potential to help with the management of chronic diseases. And as we’ve discussed on this blog several times before, mobile technology and wearables are helping caregivers better collaborate and coordinate care.

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