Internet of things (IoT) is not a completely new concept – we’ve seen its various implementations over the recent years in devices like smart thermostats, smart door locks, smart scales and activity trackers.
Yes, IoT devices add new levels of convenience, accessibility and efficiency to our lives. But while these typical IoT gadgets are not indispensable for most people, it is in health care where internet of things can become truly vital and show its full potential, proving the devices are more than just gadgets for the affluent geeks.
The recent developments in healthcare products indicate that the IoT revolution may be round the corner. We present the 5 examples of healthcare IoT which prove the potential is real – the status of the devices will soon be elevated from convenience gadgets to bona fide health-care devices.
Propeller Health is a company developing so-called digital medicines. Their product Propeller offers a new way to effectively treat chronic respiratory disease.
Propeller is an IoT device which essentially converts any popular inhaler or bluetooth spirometer into an IoT device. The benefit? Connectivity, instantaneous analytics, and improved clinical outcomes for the patients, who are connected 24/7 to the family and the physician.
While the device is really simple, it may soon change how clinicians’ work with patients. With comprehensive data on the use of medication, physicians are better prepared to help patients manage their disease and keep them out of the hospital when appropriate – reducing excessive healthcare bills in the process.
Eversense XL CGM is an IoT device enabling continuous monitoring of glucose levels for diabetic patients. The product consists of an implantable sensor, a removable and rechargeable smart transmitter (attached on the patient’s body), and a convenient app installed on the patient’s smartphone. There is no need for a separate receiver, and the sensor lasts up to 3 months in the patient’s body.
The device provides convenient, continuous glucose monitoring. The accompanying smartphone app keeps record of measurements, predicts low glucose levels and displays relevant alerts.
Successful treatment is contingent on regular intake of prescribed medication and informed physician’s decisions. But the latter is impossible without the former, and very difficult without sufficient data on the patient. Enter ingestible sensors.
The Proteus ingestible sensor system involves complete monitoring of medication intake. Each pill contains the medication prescribed by the physician and a tiny digestible Proteus sensor. To read the information in it, patients use wearable patches (applied on the body) which relay the information to the patient’s smartphone. The data is synced with the smartphone and displayed in a dedicated app. From there, it can be shared with the physician, who can verify if the patient has taken the right dose of the medication, and when it happened.
The patch also tracks the patient’s activity, like rest, activity, steps and heart rate, and should be replaced once a week.
Kardiaband is a smartwatch strap that, when installed in an Apple Watch, provides electrocardiographic monitoring.*
Kardiaband is compatible with Apple Watches and measures electrical activity of the heart. The data can then be applied to assess heart rate, stress levels, fatigue, heart age. The accompanying Kardia app provides unlimited history and storage of ECG readings. The ECG report can then be shared with the physician as complementary information.
La Roche-Posay My Skin Track is a wearable UV sensor with a companion app. It was designed to help the patient develop good skin-care habits based on various data.
My Skin Track measures and tracks UV exposure and provides information about pollution, pollen and humidity based on the current location (the location data is pulled from the smartphone). Based on the information, the app offers personalized tips and skincare recommendations for healthy skin regimen.
With the help of IoT healthcare devices like those mentioned above patients are not left alone with their disease in-between doctor’s appointments. Instead, they have a digital companion, an app that can offer daily insights, tips and alerts, and prompt their physician to intervene when needed.
From the app, patients and physicians have complete information about health and the intake of medication. But can a device or an app fully substitute a caring, knowledgeable physician looking after the patient? Certainly not, and this not the ambition of IoT producers. What these devices can do, however, is to improve a patient’s outcomes by giving the physician more data to work on, which leads to more precise diagnosis (even in-between doctor’s visits).
The long-term net effect of widespread implementation of such IoT-enabled health devices is more effective diagnosis, higher confidence in the health system, and – by extension – lower healthcare bills for the patients (in countries without public health care).
* Apple Watch Series 4 is the only smartwatch which, as of December 2018, comes with the ECG monitoring feature built-in.