Internet of Things (IoT) adoption is exploding in healthcare. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) research found that 60 percent of healthcare organizations used IoT technology in 2016, and that number was forecast to climb to 85 percent in 2019.
Chris Sullivan, Global Healthcare Practice Lead for Zebra Technologies, sees several areas where IoT technology is benefitting healthcare providers — and where opportunities exist for ISVs and software developers.
Medtech Systems and Medical Devices
The Medtech industry is looking for assistance from software developers to connect their products to healthcare IoT networks. “They have decades of experience building devices, but not as much experience on the software side,” Sullivan explains. “There are definitely opportunities here for software developers.”
Moreover, many medical devices and Medtech systems are standalone solutions that don’t integrate with each other or with a healthcare organization’s EHR system. Not only does this make using and maintaining systems more complex, but it also tends to silo data.
“A doctor or nurse with many patients is managing many things at one time. It’s not effective to funnel independent data streams to them,” Sullivan says. “Also, data from one device may not provide a clear picture of a patient’s status, but data from a combination of devices may quickly reveal it.”
“It’s also beneficial to provide a hierarchy to alerts determining what’s critical and what could be handled by support staff,” he adds. “Analytics is an area that holds a lot of promise, but also requires a great deal of work.”
Consumers have adopted a variety of wearable devices or apps that help them monitor their activity, sleep patterns, heart rate, or other metrics. However, Sullivan comments, “This is just the beginning. For the most part, wearables just provide data. There hasn’t been much progress on using them to manage health.”
Software developers can integrate data from wearables with national databases, standards, and other resources to provide information, guidance and health coaching.
The Environment of Care
Sullivan points out that the physical environment is just as critical to healing and patient safety as other aspects of hospital operations. Electrical, HVAC, communications infrastructure, building maintenance monitoring and management are all essential to a facility’s ability to support care.
Although there are providers who are laser-focused on supporting healthcare facilities’ unique requirements, there may be opportunities to enhance the environment of care with new IoT solutions, such as smart lighting. LED lighting can recognize that a person enters a room or trigger an alert.
“Real-time locationing of people and things, using light and motion sensors is an interesting concept,” says Sullivan. “For the same investment in lighting, you get double value for it. But it’s not well-functioning yet. ISVs can provide some help there.”
IoT can provide value to supply chains across the entire spectrum of verticals, but for healthcare, it can address the challenge of replenishment at the point of care. “No hospital ever wants a stock out, so they keep too much in stock,” Sullivan says. “Without an intelligent system, the hospital may experience more waste than necessary due to products expiring, and managing product recalls can be more complicated.”
“Hospitals can benefit from machine-to-machine automation, tracking and replenishment capabilities as consumption occurs,” he says.
With Windows Mobile phasing out, there is a strong upsurge in Android for healthcare mobility. Sullivan explains that although iOS is popular among physicians, issues with interoperability and upgrades limit its use. “Historically, iOS has been used for simpler applications like texting and messaging,” Sullivan says. “Now, healthcare organizations want to connect mobile devices to smart medical equipment. Android’s open nature makes it easier to connect than iOS. Android mobile is a real opportunity for ISVs.”
Security, in general, represents another opportunity for ISVs and software developers. “IoT devices can be a security nightmare,” comments Sullivan. “Each can be an entry point for hackers.” Healthcare industry leaders at Zebra’s HIMSS event stressed the urgent need for device security and challenged ISVs to accelerate the development of security solutions for IoT.
There’s Room in the Healthcare IoT Market
Sullivan says that the healthcare technology industry’s giant names can be intimidating, but there is definitely opportunity to penetrate the market. “It may be hard to align with major players, but there are a lot of mid-tier companies that don’t have the software depth and need outside help,” he says. Furthermore, depending on the application, you may not need clinical or healthcare knowledge to work with them.
Explore the opportunities healthcare IoT technology offers and what it could mean for your business.