The day of connected devices is here. Mere possibilities with IoT (Internet of Things) a few short years ago are today’s realities and wearables like the Apple Watch or connected home devices like Nest are just a few examples. While the majority of IoT attention goes to consumer devices, the most critical market for IoT has yet to reach its full potential: healthcare.

Healthcare has a great opportunity to improve the patient experience and even more incentive to do so as The Affordable Care Act (ACA) placed a new emphasis on the patient experience with a greater focus on decreasing avoidable readmissions after patient discharge. Readmissions are not only detrimental to patient health but also represent a huge cost to care providers. Healthcare experts estimate that in 2013 about $17 billion was spent on potentially avoidable readmissions. This is where The Internet of Things can make an impact with remote patient monitoring through connected devices. iStock_000022287015Medium

Aspect’s latest research shows that health care is the industry most likely to adopt changes to technology in the next two years. In fact, 91% of health care professionals believe in the positive impact of cloud technology investment. But what exactly does the future of healthcare look like in a connected world?

Here’s a few examples of how IoT can help improve patient health and lower healthcare costs.

  1. Wearable connected devices. Patients recently discharged from the hospital can be issued a device to monitor vital signs (heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, temperature) and other necessary readings such as glucose levels. Data would be sent to the healthcare provider over a secure connection and an alert would be triggered if the readings were outside the acceptable range. This information can also be used by the doctor during follow-up visits or for patient education on better lifestyle choices.
  2. Connected household device. In a similar way, families may choose to keep a simple device in their home and use it as needed. Think of a more sophisticated internet-enabled thermometer. Parents of a child feeling ill may have their child wear the device and have his/her vital information sent to their healthcare provider to determine if an appointment is necessary. And with WebRTC, this child may even have a consultation with his/her doctor before deciding whether or not to go in for a visit. With the video-capabilities, the patient can even show their healthcare provider visible symptoms to help with a diagnoses. These type of consultations can be helpful to stop the spread of contagious diseases as it will keep the infected patient out of populated areas like the emergency waiting room.
  3. Prescription drug monitoring. Makers of prescription drugs are already using IoT to monitor the integrity of their prescriptions. One company placed sensors under the labels on pill bottles. The bottles are monitored prior to arriving at a pharmacy to ensure that they have not been tampered with. Imagine if the monitoring continued into a patient’s home? Alerts could be sent to patients if their medication has not been taken on time or if too many pills have been taken.

Getting patients on board with using connected devices will be making them patient-controlled. Patients should be able to take the devices on and off at their will and control the data they are sharing. Many might feel more comfortable wearing a device and knowing that if their readings go outside of the expected range, a healthcare professional will be alerted and the patient would be followed up with via the channel of their choice. And at the patient’s request, family/friends can be alerted if needed. Patients have been embracing wearable technology for years, like First Alert. IoT is just taking it one step further.

These examples are realities with technology today. Customer service has gone beyond basic phone calls and can have a positive impact on patient health.

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