The Internet of Things, also known as IoT technology, is growing. The term refers to any physical object (or thing) that connects, shares data, or can be controlled via the internet. This tech category includes things such as doorbell cameras, smart thermostats, or app-controlled lighting systems.
In the world of healthcare, IoT technology is making a major impact. This category of the IoT is sometimes referred to as the Healthcare Internet of Things (HIoT) or the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Whichever way it is named, these internet-connected devices are used for specific medical purposes to provide a benefit for the healthcare sector.
To help clarify exactly what IoT technology is and how it is being employed to incredible effect in the healthcare industry, we have put together a list of some of the most relevant devices that use this incredible technology. Here are five major examples of healthcare IoT.
1. Software as a Medical Device
Software as a medical device (SaMD) is defined as any software that serves a medical purpose to treat, diagnose, cure, or mitigate a health condition that works independently of another medical device. This software is usually run and connected to the internet via a program or an app on a smartphone, tablet, wearable device, or laptop computer.
SaMD is one of the fastest-growing segments of the medical device industry. These IoT medical devices are providing both patients and medical professionals with capabilities and benefits that were never before available. These software-based devices are making medicine more affordable, more portable, and more personalized.
Examples of IoT, SaMD technology includes an app that calculates precise medicine dosages based on a person’s vitals or software that uses algorithms to detect lung cancer by analyzing abnormalities in a screening that the human eye would never catch. Orthogonal’s SaMD guide goes into greater detail on the nuances of software as a medical device.
2. Smart Thermometers
A smart thermometer functions much like a traditional thermometer but, since it is part of the IoT, it can transmit its temperature readings to the cloud. This allows the reading to be seen on a smartphone app which is very convenient but it also allows for much more data study. It allows the data to be collected and stored on the cloud so it can be analyzed for different purposes.
This temperature data can be examined in conjunction with other information such as additional symptoms and the age of the patient to help give an idea of what the patient might be causing the patient’s suffering. This is particularly helpful for parents with young children who can’t verbalize what they are feeling when they have a fever.
The smart thermometer company Kinsa is putting this IoT technology to a very interesting use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using anonymous data collected through these devices, the company is able to predict COVID hotspots when it sees a cluster of high temperatures in a given area. This is being used to help monitor the virus and minimize the spread.
3. Remote Temperature Monitoring
Another IoT technology has been helping the healthcare field for a while, but it has become even more useful during COVID: remote temperature monitoring. Some drugs, medical devices, and yes, vaccines, need to be kept at very specific temperatures throughout the manufacturing, distribution, and storage processes. Remote IoT sensors, known as data loggers, monitor these temperatures and transmit the data to a remote, cloud-based monitoring system.
Remote temperature monitoring is especially pertinent right now because both of the two COVID vaccines approved for use in the United States at the beginning of 2021 need to be kept in a deep freeze until they are ready for use. This frozen state ensures that the biological material in the vaccine stays effective until it can be administered to a patient.
The vaccine from Moderna must be kept at a temperature of -4° Fahrenheit (-20° Celsius) and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be even colder-at around -94° Fahrenheit (-70° Celsius). These temperatures are monitored and maintained throughout the process thanks to IoT remote temperature monitoring.
4. Smart Pill Bottles
Monitoring prescription drug usage has long been a very important part of the healthcare industry. In 2021, more than 2/3 of the adult population in the United States are taking at least one prescription medication and more than ½ the population takes two or more. IoT pill bottles are helping people remember to take medications regularly while monitoring the prescriptions to make refills easier and to help fight abuse.
These smart pill bottles transmit data to apps that send reminders via notifications, texts, or emails. These reminders can be at times when the medication should be taken or when the prescription is getting low and a refill order is needed. The system can also send alerts when the bottle is opened so the patient will know if someone else is using the medication.
5. Medical Equipment Tracking
Running a hospital or other large medical facility is an extremely complex endeavor. The buildings are often large and filled with hundreds or even thousands of medical professionals, patients, administrative and support staff along with vast quantities of medical equipment and devices.
IoT locating sensors are now being placed on medical equipment so staff at a facility can more easily locate this equipment when it is needed. It also helps administrators know how much of the equipment is being allocated and what the needs may be at any given time. These tracking devices are helping hospitals run more efficiently and ensuring that life-saving medical equipment can be easily accessed at critical times.
The Internet of Things is helping make life easier, safer, and more convenient in many different situations. In the healthcare industry, this is especially apparent. IoT technology can be found in thermometers, temperature sensors, pill bottles, and on medical equipment. It can even be a medical device on its own. As the IoT continues to develop, there will surely be even more opportunities for the healthcare industry to improve through the use of newly applied technological resources.