The Internet of Healthcare Things-Enabled Mobile Healthcare
In the last healthcare blog, M2M & Internet of Healthcare Things, we provided an overview of how 4G LTE technology is creating the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT). By using wireless technology to create real-time connections between people and machines (computer systems) and machines and machines (M2M), IoHT is enabling medical providers to deliver better healthcare checkups, testing, and diagnosis to more people, anywhere. The goal is to not only find better ways to treat the sick, but to promote wellness and preventative health.
In this installment, we look at specific examples of IoHT-enabled mobile and/or decentralized healthcare. All of these examples depend on secure, reliable broadband Internet connectivity to improve the health of the general population.
The Arrival of the Patient-Focused Healthcare Kiosks
Consumers have gotten used to kiosks that let them do everything from personalize greeting cards, to finding lost keys, and ordering fresh pizza. Medical care providers are now taking that same element of convenience and applying it to healthcare.
Patient-focused kiosks are showing show up in hospital waiting rooms, at company offices, on street corners, and inside malls and other retail locations. The kiosks enable patients to schedule and check in for appointments, fill out healthcare questionnaires, scan drivers’ licenses and insurance cards, view account balances, pay for services, review patient medical information, and navigate large hospital buildings.
Consumer benefits include reduced waiting times (since many patients can check in at once), the relief of being able to provide sensitive information to a machine instead of a human, and the ability to review and complete personal medical information in privacy. By enabling patients to enter data directly into machines (rather than having to write it down and have it entered later by another person or announce it verbally for anyone to hear), kiosks promote HIPAA-mandated patient data privacy and accurate, secure data management.
Real-Time Diagnostic Kiosks and Tele-Health Extend Providers’ Reach
As with these more patient-focused kiosks, providers are also placing diagnostic kiosks in locations that are convenient for patients. The purpose of these kinds of kiosks, though, is more to extend the reach of providers, enabling them to interact directly with patients and provide more in-depth care.
At their most sophisticated, these kiosks are attached to diagnostic devices such as blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, general and dental examination cameras, telephonic stethoscopes, digital EEGs, ultrasound devices, and more. Doctors can use these devices along with real-time “face-to-face” video connections to conduct diagnostic exams and make recommendations for further tests or treatment. Eye specialists, for example, can work with remote caregivers to receive real-time retinal scans that can be used to diagnose eye disease.
Our Aging Population Drives Changes In Healthcare Delivery
Added to the forces changing the way healthcare is delivered that we mentioned in the last blog (rising costs, consumer demand) is a rapidly aging population. The population of Americans aged 85 and over is projected to double by 2036 and then triple by 2049. As the number of older people increases, so does prevalence of chronic illnesses and physical disabilities. For reasons of both patient preference and economics, this has also increased the prevalence of in-home healthcare delivery.
While this kind of care delivery is not new, what is new is the ability to create real-time connections between in-home medical monitoring devices and medical staff, and to centralize control over these devices.
Medical Donor Kiosks
It is a well-known fact that the world faces a shortage in blood, organ, and bone marrow donors. Located in high-traffic areas, these kinds of kiosks expand the pool of potential donors. The kiosks enable people to answer donor-screening questions, watch videos about donation, see profiles of patients in needs, and sign up to receive DNA test kits (potential donors return the test kits by mail).
Mobile Clinics Take It Up a Notch
Converted buses, trucks, and other vehicles have long been used to take healthcare to people. With IoHT, these vehicles now use real-time video to connect people in remote place to general practitioners and specialists. Advancements in wireless technology also enable mobile practitioners to conduct testing, monitor vital signs, and transmit results from the clinic back to a centralized headquarters.
Practitioners can synchronize and transmit patient data, images, and X-rays in real time. Hospitals and clinics can remotely troubleshoot technology and monitor security cameras to provide real-time protection for these often very expensive vehicles.
New Uses Bring New Challenges
The application of wireless 4G LTE-enabled healthcare continue to expand with increasing velocity. Rapidly evolving technology brings with it new kinds of kiosks, new ways to use tele-heath to extend the range of scarce medical specialists, improvements in home-based care, and advancements in mobile health and dental care.
But the world of IoHT is not without its challenges. In our next healthcare blog, we look at some of the things that medical providers should consider when contemplating IoHT and the opportunities that come to those who overcome those challenges.