Thursday, 21 July 2016

Can the Internet of Things #IoT transform Healthcare? by @drvikram


Internet of things continues to dominate the world apparent by the success of the Liveworx16 that recently concluded in Boston. Liveworx is the signature event of Thingworx a PTC company. The event saw a curious mix of CAD/CAM experts who were trying to understand how IoT was going to help them mingling with IoT experts who had already implemented a few projects and were looking to consolidate on their early mover advantage. But one Industry that is looking at IoT very seriously is healthcare. Yes you heard me its healthcare, and may even leapfrog other industries when it comes to IoT adoption.


But then why should healthcare look at IoT?


Well that is a good question that is being asked by many hospitals and rightfully so. Hospitals have a duty towards their patients, community, physicians and staff and the last thing they want to do is to embark on a new technology for the sake of technology. But before we look at why IoT, we should probably try to understand the origin of IoT.


Some might argue that IoT is not new, maybe the patenting of the passive RFID in 1973 was the origin of IoT. By the 1980’s many manufacturing units were already connected. Some others like consumer goods were using a form of IoT. For example Coke was using a similar technology with its vending machines in 1980’s which was invented at the Carnegie Mellon University. 1980 was also the year CERN launched World Wide Web (WWW) and the internet was born. By 1990’s Wal-Mart had mandated all organizations that are displaying their goods to have advanced RFID chips. This had led to the famous spat between P & G and Wal-Mart. I am not sure who blinked first but for a while P & G was off the shelves at Wal-Mart.

By 2000’s we started connecting devices to the internet. Power grids and Energy companies started systems which were talking to each other. Soon cell phones were connected and then by 2008, we saw the inflection point on the number of connected devices. Today we have wearable devices that can send your physiological data to your physician that can help him or her track your health parameters like BP and sugar levels.

IoT in India is not new either. I know for example a hospital in Delhi-NCR region had ambulances with antennas on its top, ECG machines, and monitors along with physicians in the ambulance. This way despite the traffic jams in India, the critical records of the patients would arrive at the ER and the physicians and surgeons would make the necessary preparation for stabilizing the patient and save valuable time that otherwise they would have wasted in these tests. At that time Rajesh Batra who was head of technology, was able to make this work and get the physicians and management on board by demonstrating the value of IoT in an ambulatory set up.

“IoT has the potential to improve care” says Rajesh Batra , “But we need to be careful about security as it very easy for a breach which would be dangerous for a hospital”

He continues the same zeal in Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai where he currently is the CIO. He is also looking at integrating IoT with emerging areas like Omni Channel with iBeacons to give a truly connected experience at the hospital.

As I have written many times in the past, we in India have this unique opportunity to create a new healthcare model that can help 1.3 billion people manage their health. I think an important component of that is population health.

Now a hypothetical population health program could work on the principle of a hospital enrolling a set of patients who need chronic care, let’s say for example diabetes into a program. The program entails these patients to check their sugar levels regularly and through IoT their sugar levels get updated into a program dash board that the physician can see. If the sugar levels are within the parameter then there is no incident. But if the sugar levels rise or fall outside of the normal range. Then the system alerts the physician. The physician would check if this is one off case or is there is a regular pattern. Based on this he or she can intervene and schedule a checkup and enter the same in the record.

Now this is a simple example, but helps us to understand how a potential IoT solution could work in population health. It would not only help in tackling chronic diseases in India, but could serve as the only option in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where access to hospitals is not available. Having said all that IoT will definitely shape the future of healthcare in the country, the only thing to be seen is the extent of that transformation.
The article was first published on Dr. Vikram's Blog, it is reproduced here with the authors permission
Author
Dr Vikram Venkateswaran
Dr Vikram Venkateswaran is a healthcare thought leader who writes and speaks about the emerging healthcare models in India and the role technology plays in them.

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