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03.25.2015Business Tech

Internet of Things and the Humanization of Healthcare Technology

5.4 billion worldwide machine-to-machine connections by 2020

That figure represents the growth in the Internet of Things (IoT) market expected to occur in the next five years, according to ABI Research, part of the insights included in Verizon’s State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015. The report brings much-needed clarity around what qualifies a technology to be part of IoT, framing that definition around the “Three As.” Fundamentally, a solution is “IoT” if it is:

Lea M. Sims, Senior Healthcare Marketing Strategist, Verizon Enterprise Solutions
Lea M. Sims, Senior Healthcare Marketing Strategist, Verizon Enterprise Solutions

  • Aware: The connected asset is able to sense something about its surroundings
  • Autonomous: The data from that asset is transferred seamlessly and automatically
  • Actionable: Analysis of the data is integrated into the business process

This definition is helpful for all sectors but especially for healthcare, where the need for aware, autonomous and actionable solutions is critical.

While IoT connections have broad implications across the healthcare system and impact an array of operational challenges, the greatest potential exists in the domain of care.

Healthcare delivery is shifting to a new transparency paradigm with unprecedented accountability around improved health outcomes. Driven by the overarching goal to improve health in America and lower the GDP spend for care, the healthcare landscape is fertile ground for the Internet of Things.

IoT and the Humanization of Technology

The Internet of Things is not just machines talking to machines. Fundamentally, the success of the IoT will depend less on the connection of technologies and more on the humanization of the technologies that are connected — intuitive technologies whose user-centric design intersects with artificial intelligence to produce a solution that measurably impacts and improves something (e.g., productivity or quality of life).

For healthcare, IoT must point purposefully to the people whom those “things” are connected and whose lives they are designed to support.

The primary user in healthcare is the patient, to whom an IoT-enabled solution will be seamlessly integrated into his or her daily activities to sense (aware) and report (automate) the kind of data that can inform coordinated care and clinical decision-making (actionable).

Remote monitors, sensors, wearables and implantables will radically change the way healthcare is delivered and improved if they can move quickly from the static and silo way they are deployed today, to a model of meaningful integration. The Internet of Things has the greatest potential to move that needle.

But patients will not be the only users and beneficiaries of intuitive, connected technologies. Providers and care teams will need solutions that sense, report and analyze processes in ways that automate and improve clinical workflows, reporting requirements and coordination of care.

Hospitals and delivery networks will benefit from IoT-enabled solutions that create operational efficiency, such as tracking and reporting personnel movements in the field — from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) activities to home healthcare visits.

What “Aware” Means for Tech-Challenged Patient Populations

The biggest lift that sensing “aware” technologies can bring to healthcare just may be in solving the tech literacy challenges that make it difficult to deploy tech in the most needful patient populations.

Monitoring devices and platforms with complicated user interfaces and complex mobile applications will never breach the tech divide that exists today. Smart devices must be intuitive enough to require limited patient programming and interaction, especially for the elderly and underserved.

A remote monitoring device, wearable or implantable that is intuitive enough to sense patient status, as well as changes and trends in that status, will boost patient confidence in using the IoT devices and provider confidence in recommending and prescribing them.

Read the second part of this series “Transforming Healthcare Data into Actionable Information."

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