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IoT and Healthcare: Redesigning Care Pathways

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Joining IoT and healthcare and leveraging connectivity to deliver care is not as easy as it seems.

The usual refrain on IoT goes like this:

  • You connect a device to the cloud. Data magically flows from the device to the cloud.
  • Data may make a stop on the way to the cloud for some local data processing.
  • We enjoy the fruits of the data and predictive maintenance and live happily ever after

We are supposed to simply rinse and repeat this process across vast swathes of industries as follows:

IoT Process

Really?!

A reader from the industrial world recently wrote to me:

“Only IT people who live in their cloudy ivory towers and have never been to a factory floor can make up these… stories”.

Managed telephone and managed services in IT is a decades-old business practice. (See the old AT&T managing a phone above). Repeating the same for monitoring machine health in industrial manufacturing can be done, but not easily, as the above reader points out.

However, replicating the same for managing human health remotely requires a leap not just in technology, but in how healthcare is delivered.

Yet, with IoT, hope for better health springs eternal.

So, how can we ensure the successful marriage of IoT and healthcare?

Managed Care and IoT

In healthare, clinical pathways or care pathways are implemented to standardize the delivery of care. A care pathway is a series of processes that reduces variability and improves clinical outcomes for the patient.

Let’s expand the notion of “pathways” to appreciate how IoT can be leveraged in healthcare delivery. The expansion includes the notion that data needs to flow across the players involved in care delivery and money needs to flow to compensate the right parties.

Hence, pathways in IoT-enabled healthcare deal with three areas:

  1. Data Pathway: With the right sensors (biosensors, wearables, smartphones etc.), patient activity and habits can be monitored, data aggregated and analyzed.
  2. Care Pathway: Clinical processes need to be designed to optimize the outcome for the patient. These are built based on empirical evidence in the practice of medicine.
  3. Payment Pathway: This pathway ensures that the care providers get paid for services rendered to the patient. As we know this is a complicated system in many countries.

The three pathways together look like this.

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