Internet of Things Market to Hit $117B

While telemedicine may bring you face-to-face, so to speak, with real-life healthcare providers, the IoT is the electronic intermediary transferring health data from a remote site to another computer or user.

The IoT is young compared to telemedicine, but it already has approximately 8.4 billion connected devices. Many of them are voice-activated assistants that announce the weather or play music, but the use of health- and fitness-related devices and sensors are on the rise, as well. The IoT healthcare market is expected to generate $117 billion in revenue by 2020. And 15 percent of healthcare leaders say the IoT and sensors already have made a large impact.

Hacking and other security risks aside, the convenience of internet-connected health devices can’t be denied: They can be worn on the wrist or placed on a counter in the home.

Connected devices allow health plans, physicians and plan members to communicate passively about a variety of potential health issues. There are two types of consumers who use connected devices, according to an IBM report:
  • Health conscious, physically-fit users; and
  • Chronically- or terminally-ill users.
The first group typically use the devices for “fun.” They want to improve their fitness levels and often check devices to understand how they’re meeting specific goals. The second group of users generally use the devices to report to a physician specific health measures relating to an illness. These devices often are prescribed by a doctor and may help the chronically ill improve their health and the terminally ill live longer.

Sharing is (Health) Caring

Information sharing is the primary driver behind the use of connected health devices. Most users (63 percent the report says) want to share details with healthcare professionals.

This is where the IoT gets more interesting. Physicians see the value of collecting and using the information to provide better care to patients. This “medical Internet of Things” (mIoT) could connect you, your wearables, in-home devices, such as a scale or spirometer, and your doctor via a secure, cloud-based storage system, potentially an Electronic Health Record.

Getting various devices and software to talk is the first hurdle. Today, this information is in multiple locations, which typically aren’t connected and can’t communicate. For the mIoT to really work in the future, the data should be housed in a single, easily accessible, yet secure, storage device.

Although difficult, time-consuming and costly to accomplish, the possibility of making these important connections—and the potential improvements in healthcare—is reason enough to continue research to learn how it might be accomplished without sacrificing data security and patient privacy.

Even if this doesn’t happen, the high-tech healthcare tools available today will continue to become more sophisticated, easier to use and ubiquitous. “Body sensors, once gadgets that were mainly used by athletes and runners, are now rapidly entering the general market, and consumers…will soon have access to a wealth of information including not only pulse, blood pressure, ECG and respiratory rate, but also more advanced data, such as inflammation, sleep patterns, etc.,” according to the journal Healthcare Informatics Research.

But even with the best technology and the most sophisticated gadgets, the lingering promise of integrated healthcare comes down to the simplest human interactions: how we communicate with each other and how we use the information we have.

How do you use the information from your wearable?

Would you move your health information to the cloud if your doctor could provide better treatment?
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