How the Internet of Things Will Reshape Healthcare: One Experience at a Time

Guest post by Puneet Gupta, chief technology officer, Brillio.

Puneet Gupta
Puneet Gupta

For those in the healthcare industry, the future feels at once full of promise and always just out of reach. Transformational advances in technology are on the horizon and fast approaching—but anticipating and adopting new tech can seem like an impossible task.

Perhaps the most promising tech trend for healthcare is the Internet of Things (IoT): the increasingly interconnected network of intelligent devices and objects that share data and enable the physical world to be integrated into digital systems.

While nearly every industry can employ IoT systems to create greater efficiencies and support new business models, the healthcare industry is particularly poised for major gains. According to a recent report, IoT in healthcare alone will be a $117 billion market by 2020.

IoT technology and digital integration has enormous potential to create meaningful experiences and better outcomes for patients, doctors, and healthcare professionals. And yet, amid all this promise, the current state of healthcare IoT leaves a lot to be desired.

How Healthcare Companies Need to Re-Imagine Change

Why is IoT adoption still lagging in the healthcare industry, despite all this potential? Many companies are simply thinking about technological change the wrong way.

Naturally, most people try to think about such changes from a 30,000-foot perspective. IoT is such a huge strategic transformation, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to begin.

I prefer to look at things differently. Instead of surveying major paradigm shifts from a million miles away, let’s flip the model and focus in on micro-experiences—small, concrete touch points along a user’s journey where technology can make a meaningful intervention.

By building from the ground up in real-world contexts—instead of from the top down in the abstract air—you’ll be able to quickly implement a number of IoT solutions and see the impact. Overarching systems will organically develop up over time as you create valuable micro-experiences on the ground.

While contemplating a global shift only generates new questions, breaking IoT down into bite-sized, tangible moments grounded in reality opens the door for immediate achievements. That’s what we call the art of the possible.

4 Examples of IoT Micro-Experiences in the Healthcare Industry

 In the spirit of focusing on context and individual instances, let’s look at four real examples of how we’ve deployed IoT micro-experiences in healthcare.

  1. Going Beyond the Pill” with Wearables

Physicians and pharmaceuticals face increasing pressure to improve patient outcomes by going “beyond the pill” and taking a more holistic view of a patient’s health. Consumer-grade wearables and fitness trackers, like FitBit, can help doctors tap into a patient’s lifestyle between visits.

For example, Brillio is working with a a large pharma company to help physicians track patients’ daily activity on a visual dashboard and set patient-specific health targets, allowing them to give more precise personal guidance. These devices can even prompt patients to take a quick walk if they haven’t been active enough that day.

Wearables integrated through Google Health or Apple’s HealthKit can also help patients manage glucose levels via activity tracking and food diaries. By giving healthcare providers and patients more continuous touch points, all parties can work together to improve health outcomes.

  1. Tracking Perishable Assets with Smart Shelves

Hospitals and healthcare companies often need to follow a “First In, First Out” practice with time-sensitive, perishable assets, like expensive drugs. But keeping track of all these assets is usually a time-consuming and clunky process. That’s where smart shelves can help.

By giving each of these assets a digital identity and tracking ambient conditions like temperature, light, and humidity, smart shelves can not only send an alert when a drug is nearing expiration or quantities are running low, but they can also react if the ambient conditions are not appropriate for the drug storage—valuable micro-experiences. We’re currently deploying this solution for another pharma company, allowing them to use assets more efficiently and effectively.

  1. Controlling Access with Smart Lockers

Hospitals are stocked with controlled substances and critical equipment that need to be kept under restricted access. New smart locker technologies can ensure that only authorized personnel can access these areas.

Using mobile-based access, these lockers recognize personnel-specific permissions and create a detailed audit trail of who accessed what and when. Connected to the cloud, these lockers can be further augmented by integrating with a live CCTV feed, capturing video of every access attempt and saving it to the cloud. This allows hospitals to reduce risks and keep critical items in safe hands.

  1. Calling On Specialists via Uber-esque Experiences

In a medical emergency, hospitals often require the immediate intervention of a specialist. While hospitals can keep a certain amount of specialists on call at any given time, the right interventionist may not always be available at the right time.

By adopting an Uber-like model, hospitals could call a wider network of on-call specialists without requiring them to be on-site around the clock. Not only is a specialist notified to come in via mobile, but he or she may be able to start providing treatment remotely. Live video feeds and vital data can be sent to a specialist’s tablet, allowing emergency procedures to begin faster.

Implementing Healthcare IoT, One Experience at a Time

Each of these examples may face some challenges along the way, from regulatory compliance, to security, to cost. But because we’re dealing with those challenges within the constraint of a particular context, we’re able to manage and overcome these obstacles.

By keeping your eyes on the micro-experiences, you can develop and deploy solutions faster and make real substantial gains through IoT. And with all the potential that IoT offers the healthcare industry, providers can’t afford to ignore the possibilities.

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