The Internet of Things continues to revolutionize everything from automobiles to agriculture to the electronics in our homes. But there may be no more critical use for connected tech than in the healthcare field, and the medical sector is now in the midst of an IoT boom.
Tracking prescription drugs.
There's a large international push to track pharmaceutical drugs from manufacturer to pharmacy, to help prevent everything from counterfeiting to theft to product damage. Thomas Villa, Global Director of Healthcare Products and Services, explains, according to laws in the U.S. and other countries, drug manufacturers will soon be required to track shipments down to an individual package level. Pharma manufacturers will soon be required by U.S. law to add a unique product identifier to each package. This will help pharmacies and others in the supply chain detect counterfeit products. It can also help the manufacturers facilitate more efficient recalls when there are issues.
"We plan to go one step further," Villa says. " Verizon will not only offer a service to pharmaceutical companies to address their required package-based tracking, but we also plan to offer a 4G sensor that companies can use with their shipments. A sensor can tell our customers what's going on with those shipments – both the temperature of the environment being monitored as well as the package’s location,” Villa says. “Think of a drug that needs to be maintained within a certain temperature range. The 4G-enabled sensors can collect temperature information and send a real-time alert to the manufacturer if the temperature is exceeding the temperature range set by the manufacturer."
Remote testing, from virtually anywhere.
To illustrate the potential of remote testing and monitoring, Kris Kingsbury, Product Manager of Healthcare IoT, uses the example of how challenging it is for people with chronic conditions like diabetes to manage their health. Often they have multiple physicians, different medications and a strict diet and care plan to follow. Poor control of diabetes can often lead to premature heart disease, kidney disease, and even blindness. We selected AMC Health as our partner because their solution enables people with diabetes to check their blood pressure, record their diet, and test their blood sugar and then automatically transmit the results to a secure Saas clinical platform over Verizon¹s 4G network so their care team can quickly see if there is a problem, wherever they are. The patient is no longer tethered to a specific location," Kingsbury says. The Clinical platform allows a clinical care manager to prioritize patients with potential risk of health decline and reach out to provide self-care support, emphasis on adherence, resources or help with getting connected with the appropriate physician. This outreach can be by phone or through a mobile video application. As you can imagine, this helps keep these individuals healthy and out of the hospital AND reduces cost.
Wearables for health and record tracking.
In the past few years, there has been a push in the healthcare space to digitize and un-tether patient records, so that every healthcare professional a patient sees, ideally, will have access to all of that patient’s health data. "Right now, when you go to a doctor, he or she might have different electronic health record (EHR) systems than the EHR systems of your other doctors, and those systems don't always talk to each other," says Kingsbury. "In the future, we believe that patients are going to want that information to be shared between their various doctors," he says. "At the same time, there’s a proliferation of wearable devices, and doctors could potentially learn a lot when patients start to give access to that data. We expect to see a convergence of the information that doctors are generating through their electronic health record systems and the data that consumers are generating through these wearable devices, and, over time, that could lead to better communication and patient experience," Kingsbury says.
"It's all about enabling things to be more accessible, more digestible and easier to use so people can reduce the disruptions to their already busy lives," says Villa. "And technology can help make that happen."