While many conversations on the Internet of Things are arguably too futuristic (in some instances almost romanticised), the now-buzzword does hold great promise to improve the way we live and work.
It’s easy to overlook the potential of IoT by pigeonholing its relevance to the entertainment level and in terms of the connected devices we use in leisure. However, in the scope of industry, its value becomes quickly apparent. Perhaps one of the best ways to illustrate this is to explore the healthcare sector.
The future of healthcare is a goldmine for IoT that will have an immediate impact on wellbeing. Internet-connected infusion pumps, imaging machines, blood-glucose sensors, and myriad more devices can automatically share valuable data to a person’s electronic health record. We can expect to see network-connected healthcare ‘aides’ playing an ever-greater role in delivering healthcare. Just imagine ‘smart beds’ that automatically detect if they’re occupied and can track the quality of the patient’s sleep. Or wearables and implants that can measure a patient’s vital statistics, continuously log data and report, in real-time, any abnormalities to the appropriate clinical staff.
We’re not talking some far-distant future here either. Hospitals are already increasingly looking to technology solutions to proactively advance patient care and improve outcomes. Networked devices are prevalent, with a growing numbers of nurses and doctors having transitioned away from clipboards and paper to Wi-Fi-enabled communications devices and tablet computers.
A cloud-based technology infrastructure enables hospitals to be fully-paperless operations, and multimedia connectivity between diverse departments ensures that the time taken for reporting and maintaining records is greatly reduced. This enables physicians to focus on more patients and seamlessly transfer cases to other departments, laboratories, or the billing section. It also allows hospitals to maintain digital records, which are useful in generating patient medical histories, as well as meet regulatory requirements. All of this contributes to a digital patient experience, with real-time collaboration for physicians, laboratories, and other components of the healthcare delivery process.
Technology in healthcare does bring unique challenges. The highest standards must be met for patient security and safety at all times, with patients needing to have absolute confidence that their data is safe. Therefore creating applications that can enhance the patient experience and improve the healthcare operator’s efficiency can be more challenging than in other industries.
Adding to those challenges is that healthcare operators’ patients are also other companies’ customers and employees – and have correspondingly high expectations. People today are well aware of what good technology experiences look and feel like – so why wouldn’t they expect to receive those from their healthcare provider?
Many of us will be all-too familiar with this scenario: you have to attend a hospital’s emergency room for a medical crisis concerning you or a loved one. In a high-stress time you will likely have to answer questions about medical history, insurance details, and so on before you can be seen to by an attending care practitioner.
While forward-thinking organisations are addressing these challenges, others need to enter the digital era. Companies today don’t want to risk losing customers as a result of a bad experience – and healthcare providers can’t afford to think differently.
The reality is that traditional business communications have failed to keep pace with consumer-focused technological devices. The simplicity, built-in intelligence and sophistication of today’s devices have taught consumers that it’s not difficult to have satisfying, tailored experiences – every time. If healthcare providers want to improve our well-being, they need to give us the experiences we want.