The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed medical practices to provide more telemedicine services and remote care—for several good reasons.
First, to reduce the burden on hospitals that are not able to deal with the influx of patients. Second, to ensure that less mobile groups (the elderly, people with disabilities, and those living far from hospitals) have access to quality medical services. But even though it seems that the pandemic may be over soon, the need for telemedicine is undoubtedly here to stay.
The adoption of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) offers further possibilities in healthcare to continue to serve patients and healthcare providers. This article discusses the developments in the IoT telemedicine market, how IoT can be used in telemedicine, how it will benefit healthcare stakeholders, and what IoT trends we should expect in the future. Let’s get into it!
IoT and Telemedicine Market Overview
The beginning of 2020 uncovered the vulnerabilities of the healthcare system, particularly of the fee-for-service approach, where the patient is provided care only after getting sick.
According to the Deloitte report, the global healthcare sector now understands that improving aid provision services and investing in preventive care lowers costs and decreases the risk of deplorable health consequences. The pandemic care showed that telemedicine and IoT could be the solution—and market stats prove that. Here are a few numbers and tendencies to watch.
- In 2020, 24% of healthcare decision-makers stated they would implement IoT for remote patient management and monitoring.
- The global telemedicine market is expected to reach $431,823.81 million in 2030, up from $40,205.68 million in 2020. According to the report, 90% of the survey respondents have already started adopting telemedicine programs.
- The global share of IoT in the healthcare market is predicted to reach $446.52 billion in 2028, up from $71.84 billion in 2020.
- According to Deloitte, spending on virtual health was expected to rise by 39% in 2022.
With more providers adopting the Internet of Things for healthcare and telemedicine getting broader insurance coverage, the medical businesses that want to future-proof their leading role in the market should adopt and further develop IoT and telemedicine in their practice. Here’s where it’s safe to do so.
Areas of IoT Implementation in Telemedicine
The implementation of IoT in telemedicine aims to improve how physicians provide care, how patients access it, and how medical institutions organize their telemedicine practices. In short, IoT connects the tools, devices, and machines used in medical settings to create an intelligent information system that helps physicians deliver quality care to remote patients.
Here’s how the process chart of IoT in the medical field looks.
Telemedicine is widely used in many domains. This is where doctors located in urban, suburban, and rural areas use it most often, according to Physician Survey Analysis, 2020:
Let’s look at particular areas where IoT in telemedicine can enhance the quality of care.
On-demand health monitoring
Connected devices generate and transmit data through the network from sensors that come in various forms and shapes:
- Wearable devices (wristbands, smart watches, sensor patches)
- Implantable devices (cardioverter defibrillator, pacemaker)
- Wireless vital monitors
- Connected inhalers
- Continuous glucose monitors
Usually, telemedicine (especially in primary care) involves the use of wearable devices that monitor vital health signs like heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level. The latter was a critical indicator to monitor in COVID patients, especially the elderly and those suffering from chronic conditions (asthma, diabetes, etc.). Understanding the dynamics of these vital signs helped doctors prevent the worsening of patients’ conditions and predict severe outcomes.
IoT technology in telemedicine is a great help to doctors as well. For example, with the use of interconnected devices and patient data management systems, the physician can quickly access the patient’s continuously monitored data and check vital sign indicators in real time.
These tools and resources help doctors do their job best. As a result, the patient’s satisfaction with the services grows, which translates to future visits, recommendations, and strengthening of the patient-doctor relationships.
Senior citizen care
Since the population is growing older, the hospitals risk getting overwhelmed by the number of visits from the elderly. The problem is that this category of people is less mobile, so the demand for remote healthcare will only increase. IoT is ready to tackle some of the challenges associated with it.
IoT in telemedicine helps monitor patients’ health without the burden associated with in-patient visits. It also opens more business opportunities for medical providers, as IoT makes remote care for seniors more accessible and in-demand. In this way, medical practices can offer sought-after medical services to more patients, especially those in rural areas.
As the use cases of IoT and telemedicine technologies abound, what good can patients, providers, and communities get from their adoption?
Benefits of IoT in Telemedicine
Establishing a reliable and secure connection between the devices and the system that displays and organizes the data they gather has plenty of benefits for healthcare providers and patients. Let’s run through the most common ones.
Easier access to medical care
IoT-based telemedicine technology allows access to various medical services from the comfort of one’s couch. For example, the patients don’t need to travel far for an initial consultation, but can still get quality support at a convenient time. As the post-pandemic survey showed, 62.6% of patients and 59% of clinicians reported no difference in the overall quality of virtual video visits compared to in-person ones.
Here’s why remote accessibility matters for medical providers from a business perspective.
- The hospitals can save on in-patient management costs.
- The number of ER visits (and associated maintenance costs) decreases: from 2020 to 2021, the average telemedicine patient ER usage rate fell from 8.5% to 3.03%.
- Remote visits ease the burden on nurses and administrative personnel, improving the quality of their work.
- Telemedicine and IoT keep medical personnel and the hospital environment safer as the need for direct contact with patients goes down.
With lower administrative costs and personnel workload, medical establishments can improve the quality of services and maintain a safe working environment for doctors and nurses to do their work best.
Data exchange between stakeholders
Having enough data to understand the health dynamics can prevent diseases from progressing and show patterns that might point to a dangerous condition. This is especially helpful for practices where IoT is connected to EHR or EMR systems. In these cases, the data from the devices is stored in one place and can be accessed by various medical specialists (e.g., physicians and cardiologists) for further interpretation.
This data is useful for business intelligence, too. If collected, stored, and interpreted properly, it can be a source of knowledge about upcoming spikes in clinical workload, a possible increase in patient visits, and the need to scale the scope of services.
From this perspective, the more informed the business is, the more flexible it becomes when responding to challenges. Plus, it will help the medical facility to plan, hire more doctors to meet patient demand, and prepare the necessary infrastructure and equipment.
Lower cost of medical care
Bills for planned check-ups are always smaller than the ones for emergency room visits. With frequent check-ups and continuous monitoring, doctors can detect an early-stage disease and prevent its progression by prescribing treatment that will save patients’ money and doctors’ time. Plus, it will keep the ER facility available for those who need it urgently.
Better medical care
Telemedicine includes not only video visits, but also other services that the patient can access via the network of connected devices and systems. For example, wearables can notify patients when it’s time to do physical activity, take medication, do breathing exercises, and so on. Another case when IoT and telemedicine form a perfect duo is the use of wearable single-lead ECG for getting regular updates to detect early signs of cardiac issues. By routinizing these activities, the patient is more likely to adhere to prescribed medication and follow the physician's recommendations, which leads to better results and faster recovery.
Flexible and convenient working environment for doctors
Like any employees, doctors need a safe and convenient environment with on-demand flexibility to perform their best and provide quality care to patients. As a result, they drive more value and trust (read, money) to the medical practice. IoT and telemedicine in healthcare empower this flexibility. Here’s an example.
Highly-qualified doctors might have a valid reason to stay home for a certain period (care for elderly or bedridden family members). Even then, they can still work on their own schedule and assist their patients. It will benefit the community, reduce the workload for other doctors, and ensure that the hospital can meet the demand of their new or existing clients.
Save environments for medical care provision
In-person consultations, especially if a patient has symptoms of a contagious disease, can endanger the doctor’s (and other patients’) health. With IoT in place, patients can get in touch with doctors and get a consultation in a safe environment from the comfort of their homes, keeping everybody safer.
All these benefits show that telemedicine and IoT are a powerful duo that can improve the quality of medical care, increase the value a medical practice offers its patients, and optimize costs. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you want to reap these benefits and ensure that your software development investment into IoT for telemedicine is worth every cent.
Things You Should Consider Before Deploying IoT for Telemedicine
Before deploying IoT for telemedicine, you need to study many factors that might make IoT adoption a hit or miss.
No matter what kind of medical technology you want to adopt (IoT, IoMT, electronic health records), you must consider these things:
- The existing technical infrastructure in the medical facility. This is not only about the telehealth technology and the network of connected devices—it’s also about hardware (database, storage type, architecture, etc.)
- The five- to ten-year business plans on technology adoption. IoT adoption in telemedicine is usually one of the earliest steps toward innovation, so you need to consider the overall business strategy as well. For example, if you plan to adopt AR/VR or an AI-based system at some point, using a scalable cloud solution for your IoT now would be great to make further tech adoption faster and smoother.
- Availability of a tech team to maintain the infrastructure. Whether you go for an in-house team or an outsourced one, you should have a responsible party to keep your whole IT infrastructure up and running and issues-free.
- Patients' access to technology and IoT devices. According to Physician Survey Analysis, 2020, lack of patient access to technology is a major barrier to patients accessing telemedicine. From this perspective, you should do profound research on how your patients use telemedicine and IoT devices, what prevents them from accessing these services, what technical knowledge they need to access IoT and telemedicine barrier-free, and how your practice can assist with it.
Understanding the context and infrastructure of healthcare facilities and patients will give you a big picture of the challenges you may face while adopting IoT in telemedicine and how to overcome them.
Immediate access to IoT maintenance
It’s important to ensure continuous IoT monitoring, maintain availability, and promptly address any issues. Having the system functioning at all times will help you avoid bottlenecks caused by avoidable system crashes and ensure smooth service provision.
IoT in telemedicine uses and generates a lot of patient data. Many countries heavily regulate its processing through HIPPA, GDPR, and other acts. However, poorly designed IoT systems may have plenty of loopholes for data theft, hurting the patient and the medical practice’s reputation. From this angle, securing patients' protected health information (PHI) is a top priority to prevent deplorable consequences for patients and safeguard the business from fines.
Device support and testing
IoT devices require timely monitoring and maintenance to provide value, keep the patient safe, and ensure reliable monitoring data. Facilities adopting IoT need to have a designated specialist to take care of the scheduled and emergency device support and testing to check the system's health and operational ability.
Implementing IoT in telemedicine will give medical businesses an immediate competitive advantage. What’s more, it will future-proof business success, as these technologies are certainly here to stay.
The Future of IoT in Telemedicine
With the rise and broader adoption of modern technologies, IoT application in telemedicine will also widen. For example, as more and more countries adopt 5G, the manufacturers will produce devices supporting this technology, and medical IoT is no exception. With the help of 5G-powered IoT devices, stakeholders will be able to receive the data faster. The positive side is that the healthcare sector will be able to predict new pandemic outbreaks and come up with safety measures and plan faster, saving more lives.
Another future trend is switching from on-demand to real-time monitoring of patients’ vital signs. With 24/7 control over health indicators, the algorithms will be able to detect regressive patterns and notify doctors immediately about the changes and the need for a check-up.
In addition, there is a growing demand for self-service kiosks in various industries (HoReCa, banking). In healthcare, this IoT technology can be used for taking basic measurements, running self-care diagnostics, or booking appointments outside the medical facility.
As the current use cases and predictions show, IoT and telemedicine technologies have successfully been helping businesses improve the quality of care and make medical services more accessible. So if you plan on reaching more patients, consult with a reliable software development company on how you can implement the technologies most efficiently.
IoT and telemedicine have quickly become a powerful duo that makes healthcare more accessible and affordable for patients. However, the scope of their benefits goes far beyond helping more people get the needed medical services.
Medical providers can cover more requests for medical intervention. Plus, IoT allows the practices to collect and process valuable data that will help them predict the future workload, plan their inventory and workforce, and prevent disease outbreaks. But these benefits become real only when the IoT and telemedicine systems are properly implemented and regularly maintained. That’s what we’re about at Techstack.
Our team will help you choose the best IoT and telemedicine solution combo that will change the game for your practice and form a solid base for further digital innovations. Contact our team to discuss how we can help you improve the quality of your medical services with cutting-edge technologies.