What are some key ways that the IoT is affecting health care?

Q:

What are some key ways that the IoT is affecting health care?

A:

The internet of things (IoT) is a big, exciting new phenomenon that's changing the technology world and renovating various industries, including health care. It has specific applications and ramifications in the medical world based on what it can do for clinical workflow models.

The first and most fundamental thing that the IoT will do in health care involves bringing a flood of new data into clinical processes. In fact, to many people, new fitness trackers and wristwatch wearables are among the best examples of the internet of things – these very mobile, small, wearable devices record things like heart rate, blood pressure and eye movement in real time and can send that data to clinicians or anywhere else it needs to go.

All of this leads to a kind of big data renaissance in health care. But according to some, it's not all roses. One phenomenon that some health care experts are talking about is the issue of “data fatigue” in provider offices.

The IoT brings floods of new data, but if clinicians and others aren’t able to manage it, it could do more harm than good to their workflow process. Without key systems in place to separate the signal from the noise, IoT data can overwhelm clinicians and disrupt what they're trying to do. When you think about it, a lot of medical work involves diagnosis and accuracy – having too much data and not enough insight can be a problem.

However, with the right oversight, the IoT can be a real asset, and many are excited about the possibilities. Another way to think about the results of the IoT in the medical world is that this new technology builds on what's already been established as a cutting-edge best practice – several years ago the federal HITECH law promoted guidelines directing clinicians to use electronic medical records. At the time, this was very much in the vanguard of medical technology. But now, IoT can enhance the EMR/EHR with better access, as well as better data flows. Consider how real-time heart rate results and other results might flow into an electronic health record. Consider how IoT might promote better 24/7 access for the patient and the clinician alike.

This is just some of what the IoT can do by building on established best practices.

Another major way that the IoT is at work in the medical field helps to offer more flexibility to physicians and other medical professionals.

An article in Healthcare IT News shows how the Citrix company is building new health care models that take the clinicians' interface away from a traditional “fat PC” and puts it into a virtualized environment that can send data to items like bar code scanners, wearables and other devices. One of the philosophies here is that doctors can spend less time sitting at a computer screen, and still transmit data into the digital record system as they move about the office. Another similar idea is the wearable that allows provider offices to track patients on their way through surgical centers or other offices to see where they are at any stage of the process, simply by tracking a digital tag attached to clothing.

These are just some of the ways the internet of things is being explored in the medical field. Look for many of these trends to remake health care in the years ahead.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.
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