The digital healthcare community, in all its diversity, is showing a new dynamism. While not expecting unrealistic growth, there’s a firm belief that the time for digital health has come and that the IoT is the key driver.
Therese Cory: As we enter 2016, society faces an increasing number of health challenges that require almost immediate attention. There’s also a growing consensus that IoT in healthcare can play a major role in creating innovative solutions for enhancing quality and service delivery, while reducing costs. But to make a real impact, these solutions must be both practical and cost-effective.
Saverio Romeo: This message was echoed at the Digital Health World Forum in London in December. The conference sessions highlighted the shift in thinking towards a systemic view of healthcare provision, linking systems with a flow of data to create a continuum of healthcare from the individual up to the largest hospitals, and including pharmacies, surgeries and other healthcare facilities.
Researchers believe that there are four main areas where IoT in healthcare will have a significant impact:
All of these areas can benefit from access to an up-to-date electronic health record detailing the patient’s condition and treatment, and affording access to their information, medical history, services and diagnostics. IoT in healthcare has the potential to make this a reality.
TC: Telemedicine is a good example of how digital health can reduce the number of hospital admissions and visits to the GP. These technologies enable clinicians to select the environment that provides the optimal care for the patient, whether at the hospital, surgery or at home. When designing this kind of virtual consultation and remote treatment, it’s important to consider the patient’s response, including whether they feel comfortable with this form of interaction. For example, a London-based support programme for alcoholics successfully uses Wi-Fi to enable communication between them and their counsellors, avoiding hospital visits because of the stigma that accompanies the condition.
TC: Unfortunately, the NHS doesn’t currently support the use of Wifi in its conventional treatments. In fact, it has been criticised for being late in adopting a number of technologies including a uniform electronic health record that can be shared by everyone involved in a patient’s care. Residential care homes are also said to be lagging behind. So, ensuring a high level of IoT adoption is a key challenge for the development of digital health.
SR: The other traditional challenges for digital health – such as regulatory and financial issues – still exist but, in spite of this, there’s a renewed enthusiasm for the digital healthcare ecosystem. There’s also more of a drive to harness the IoT in healthcare to enable the continuum of provision from the individual to the hospital.
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