The Internet of Things is about to transform the way we live and work. And if it reaches its fullest potential, it will fundamentally change every aspect of our lives.

That sort of disruption is evident in the healthcare sector, where the pen and paper has been the primary means of recording patient information for decades. But now, healthcare technology is changing in major ways.

Digital healthcare applications now let patients schedule their appointments without the need to call a doctor’s office and wait for a receptionist. Healthcare information technology lets doctors carry information with them anywhere they go through apps on their smartphones.

And this increasing connectivity shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s only accelerating. The global internet of medical things (IoMT) market is expected to swell to a $158 billion valuation in 2022, up from $41 billion in 2017.

In short, more connection means more accessible data and better healthcare for patients. Below, we’ve laid out a roadmap of healthcare’s past, present, and future thanks to the IoT.

The Evolution of Healthcare Technology

Arguably the greatest technological leap forward in the last several decades has been the development of electronic health records, or EHRs. Previously, hospitals had multiple systems that handled different functions, but EHRs roll all of those into a single system.

EHRs have just about reached full penetration in US hospitals. And with the rise of health tech, EHRs are moving to become platforms integrated with powerful clinical decision support tools. 

Then we have portal technology, which lets patients take a more active role in their own health and wellbeing. Portals let users log on to the healthcare provider’s websites to access their medical records, download forms, and prepare for appointments. Healthcare companies were projected to spend $11.4 billion in 2019 on cloud computing for streamlining health data sharing and driving innovation.

IoT Medical Devices 

The IoT enables healthcare providers to extend their reach outside of the traditional clinical setting. Home monitoring systems allow patients and doctors to keep track of an individual’s health when not in the doctor’s office to prevent unnecessary and costly trips to sit down with a physician.

Another IoT tool US health systems and hospitals are turning to improved outcomes and reduced costs is remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology. This type of patient care leverages connected devices with IoT sensors to offer providers a continuous stream of real-time health data such as heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose monitoring.

In addition to monitoring basic fitness levels, wearables such as the Apple Watch are now taking on more medical device functionality as tech companies eye a growing opportunity in the lucrative digital health market.

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How IoT Will Revolutionize the Healthcare Industry

The IoT is slowly starting to weave into healthcare on both the doctor and patient fronts. Ultrasounds, thermometers, glucose monitors, electrocardiograms, and more are all starting to become connected and letting patients track their health. This is crucial for those situations that require follow-up appointments with doctors.

Multiple hospitals have started to utilize smart beds, which can sense the presence of a patient and automatically adjust itself to the correct angle and pressure to provide proper support without the need for a nurse to intervene.

The IoT could also help transform patient care at home. Sadly, some patients don’t take their medication in appropriate doses or at the correct times. Smart medication dispensers in the home could automatically upload information to the cloud and alert doctors when patients don’t take their medicine. More broadly, this type of technology could let doctors know of any potentially dangerous patient behavior.

IoT Healthcare Companies and Startups

Several well-known companies are leading the pack when it comes to the IoT and healthcare. These companies are clamoring to gain a major slice of the pie by developing products for specific medical applications, increasing collaborative research and development, and acquiring new startups.

Microsoft, for example, has built its Microsoft Azure cloud platform to facilitate cloud-based delivery of multiple healthcare services. Additionally, Apple has worked toward turning its consumer products into portable health hubs.

Apple Watch continues to advance its health features with each iteration – like its FDA-approved electrocardiogram (EKG) embedded in the Series 4, and both a menstrual health-tracking feature and a dedicated Research app added to the Series 5.

But dozens of other companies and startups are also looking to break into the space, such as:

  • AliveCor
  • Proteus
  • CrossChx
  • Neurotech
  • Sensely
  • Pear Therapeutics
  • Clover Health
  • Babylon Health
  • Genoox
  • Helix
  • Karius