The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those subject matters that tends to include a lot of future-gazing around what may be possible in five, 10 or even 20 years’ time but we’re very fortunate in the healthcare sector to be able to show real examples where IoT is having a positive impact for both patient and provider today.
IoT across Healthcare
It’s estimated that IoT in healthcare could be worth some $117 billion by 2020 and while that number may seem incomprehensibly large it is worth remembering that IoT touches on so many areas of healthcare from sensors and devices for recording and analysis through to the need for secure cloud and networks to transmit and store voluminous data.
When the UK Government published their ‘The Internet of Things: making the most of the Second Digital Revolution’ report, healthcare was one of most talked about areas with IoT making a significant impact in helping to ‘shift healthcare from cure to prevention, and give people greater control over decisions affecting their wellbeing.’
Meaningful Use Today
Here at Intel in the UK we’re working with a fantastic company in the Internet of Things space that is having a real and meaningful impact for patient and provider. MimoCare’s mission is ‘to support independent living for the elderly and vulnerable’ using pioneering sensory-powered systems. And with an ageing population across Europe and the associated rise in healthcare costs, Mimocare are already helping to ‘shift healthcare from cure to prevention’ today.
I think it’s important to highlight that MimoCare’s work focuses on measuring the patient’s environment, rather than the patient. For example, sensors can be placed to record frequency of bathroom visits and a sudden variation from the normal pattern may indicate a urinary infection or dehydration.
The phrase ‘changing lives’ is sometimes overused but when you read feedback from an elderly patient benefiting from MimoCare’s work then I think you’d agree that it is more than appropriate. MimoCare talked me through a fantastic example of an 89 year old male who is the primary carer for his 86 year old wife and is benefiting greatly from IoT in healthcare. The elderly gentleman has a pacemaker fitted so is required to administer warfarin but with his primary focus on caring for his wife there is a risk that he may miss taking his own medication.
Using MimoCare sensors on the patient’s pill box enables close family to be alerted by SMS if medication is missed. The advantage to the patient is that both the sensors in the home and, importantly, the alert triggers are unobtrusive, meaning that the patient remains free from anxiety. If medication is missed a gentle reminder via a phone call from a family member is all that I needed to ensure the patient takes medication. And for the healthcare provider the cost in providing care for the patient is significantly reduced too.
The elderly male patient said, “I really like the medication box as it feels like something for me. It's nice to know someone is keeping an eye out to help remind me to take my medication daily and on time. In fact last time I visited the surgery they were able to reduce my warfarin and I'm sure that's because I'm now taking it regularly.” Read more on how MimoCare is using sensors in the home to help the elderly stay independent and out of hospital.
Big Data, Big Possibilities
I’m really excited about the possibilities of building up an archive of patient behaviour in their own home that will enable cloud analytics to produce probability curves to predict usual and unusual behaviour. It’s a fantastic example of the more data we have, the more accurate we can be in predicting unusual behaviour and being able to trigger alerts to patients, family and carers. And that can only be a positive when it comes to helping elderly patients stay out of hospital (and thus significantly reduce the cost of hospital admissions).
Intel has played a pivotal role in assisting of porting both software and hardware to give improved performance of the IoT gateway, also provided through WindRiver Linux an enhanced data and network security including down-the-wire device management for software updates and configuration changes.
Sensing the Future
But where will the Internet of Things take healthcare in the next 5-10 years? What I can say is that sensors will become more cost-effective, smaller and will be more power-efficient meaning that they can be attached to a multitude of locations around the home. Combining this sensor data with that recorded by future wearable technology will give clinicians a 360 degree view of a patient at home which will truly enable the focus to be shifted from cure to prevention.
I asked MimoCare’s Gerry Hodgson for his thoughts on the future too and he told me, “IoT and big data analytics will revolutionise the way care and support services are integrated. Today we have silos of information which hold vital information for coordinating emergency services, designing care plans, scheduling transport and providing family and community support networks. The projected growth in the elderly population means that it is imperative we find new ways of connecting local communities, families and healthcare professionals and integrating services.”
“Our cascade 3-D big data analytics provides a secure and globally scalable ecosystem that will totally revolutionise the way services are coordinated. End to end, IoT sensors stream valuable data to powerful server platforms such as Hadoop which today provides an insight into what would otherwise be unobtainable.”
“I'm very excited about the future where sensors and analytics change the way we coordinate and deliver services on a huge scale.”