Glance at the wrist of the modern day commuter and you will find fitness trackers and smartwatches monitoring activities and uploading data to the Cloud. A look into the home of a cardiac patient might show tabletop monitoring that sends daily readings into the hands of a specialist in another state. And coming soon are a whole new set of devices and services that will make health care more efficient while saving lives, time and money.

In the growing field of remote healthcare, devices like wireless body fluid analyzers reduce the cost of diagnostic tests, like urinalysis, and enable doctors to treat patients who are otherwise unable to travel. Prototypes of next generation emergency rooms are now being tested with interconnected diagnostic machines. These provide the medical team with a comprehensive view of the patient's overall health and allow efficient allocation of resources while decreasing potential errors.

Crash to care

The White House SmartAmerica Challenge posed the following scenario: utilize the IoT in order to coordinate first responders in a disaster situation. Locations must be pinpointed and the closest available medical response units should be notified automatically.

"Today the IoT encompasses wearable devices and remote monitoring, but researchers are developing the “Ingestible IoT”; a pill with an embedded sensor that will push the boundaries of conventional healthcare."

Emergency vehicles would need to communicate with traffic lights to provide navigation and traffic management to both responders and the public, ensuring a safe roadmap. Once onsite, EMTs need devices that relay, in real time, vital medical information about the injured parties to hospital personnel, in order to prepare for incoming trauma patients.

IoT systems can now guide first responders not just to the closest hospital, but to one with available space, required medical equipment and necessary specialists. Once inside the hospital, new IoT technology, emerging from programs like OpenICE, will enable medical equipment within the emergency room to intercommunicate and alert the staff if a patient’s vitals are approaching critical levels. For example, the patient's pulse ox, when compared with blood pressure and respiration rate, can be used to ensure patients are receiving the correct amount of pain medication. The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health and Safety reports that over a four-year period, 700 deaths and 56,000 adverse events could be attributed to Patient Controlled Analgesia. An Internet compatible IoT system of medical devices can reduce these numbers.

What’s next

Today the IoT encompasses wearable devices and remote monitoring, but researchers are developing the “Ingestible IoT”; a pill with an embedded sensor that will push the boundaries of conventional health care. These “smart pills” can remind you to take your medication (or alert you if your grandmother hasn’t), monitor glucose levels or take photos of your intestinal tract. Combing the IoT with health care will drive not just innovation of services but also reduce costs, increase accuracy and bring services to more of the world's population.