The Internet of Things(IoT) is a network of ordinary items and physical objects that have network connectivity associated with them. It allows these objects to measure and collect data and then exchange that data with other objects or servers. This type of technology solution lends itself well to the healthcare industry as we become more and more technology dependent for our everyday needs. The intersection of healthcare and IoT is positioned to be a $117 billion industry by 2020.

We are on the cusp of a new era in healthcare, as patients will begin to take more control of their care, while having the ability to communicate seamlessly with their doctors. IoT solutions will help drive down medical costs as routine care can now be monitored by medical equipment that is smaller and capable of being controlled by smartphones and the Internet.

DISRUPTING THE INDUSTRY

Think about the last time you went to the doctor. You most likely had your blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate checked. The problem is that these readings were taken at your appointment, as a snapshot, of a particular moment in time. What if before you went to the doctor, he or she had a reading of average key stats for a period of time? There is a lot of value to be gained from this continuous data.

If a doctor needs more data, the patient will likely need to stay at a hospital for continuous monitoring. The alternative is for the patient to track the data on their own and this will likely not be reliable data. Here are some ways that IoT solutions are changing how we collect data about our health.

Continuous and Trend Monitoring

A simple “smart patch” that looks almost like a band-aid will soon be able to monitor everything from your blood pressure to what you might find on a blood panel such as glucose levels, kidney function, and electrolyte balance. These skin-like electronics are a game changer and will be an opportunity for not only healthcare but also the sports and cosmetic industries. Companies to look out for in this space are MC10 and Sano.

There are many other use cases for IoT healthcare monitoring solutions such as auto-monitoring body temperature for family planning, measuring and tracking your weight and body fat composition, heart rate, blood sugar and even a baby’s vitals.

Medication Adherence

It is recommended that you take your medications at the same time every day in order to achieve the full benefit of your medications. For the more forgetful types, something like a GlowCap can help us remember to take our medications. The company has stopped orders as it prepares for a relaunch but after doing more research, it is surprising to see how bulky some of the products are in the market. For some chronic illnesses, the timing of medications is critical. Suppose someone is getting ready to have a surgery and the medication isimportant for the success of that surgery. There is really is no way for the doctor to have the assurance that the patient has taken their medications.

Elder Care

If you combine sensors, medication adherence and the rapid growing “connected home” market, we can use technology to enable the elderly to stay independent longer. Why does it matter? The elderly make up 50 percent of our economy and are a $7 trillion dollar opportunity for venture capitalists. VC’s have been pouring money into startups looking to solve problems for this segment of the population. Particularly wearable technology will be one of the biggest opportunities to explore.

When I think about how far technology companies have come in the past three years, I know the future is bright. You will be hearing more and more about IoT over the years to come but we are only scratching the surface in terms of our potential, particularly as it relates to healthcare.

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Photo Credit: MC10

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