Updated: May 8
As healthcare facility technology designers, we tend to use terms like 'Internet of Things" or IoT to describe how we intend to assist our clients in modernizing building technology networks and systems within the hospital confines. This could enable mechanical and electrical systems to communicate to maintenance personnel or services providers, but this article focuses beyond that and how IoT is deployed by healthcare service providers to provide remote healthcare to the patient community.
IoT in Healthcare, what does it really mean?
Today for a healthcare enabled IoT facility, the first criteria must be the hospitals wireless internet reach.
Oracle, a leader in data management platforms and the transfer of information over cloud technologies, defines IoT as “the network of physical objects, "Things" that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet." (Oracle, 2022)
This leads to the question, how do the multitude of IoT healthcare technology devices communicate with other systems, such as Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)? These RPM devices, by definition, are located beyond the Local Area Network (LAN) boundaries of the hospital buildings, such as in patient’s homes, doctor’s office, or even within an ambulance.
With many residents these days "cutting the cord", the traditional land-based dial-tone devices that once served this purpose now rely on the Internet to connect. This is where the "Smart Hospital" and IoT concept takes over.
How this works today is via the homes' Internet access and cellular connectivity, not only for the home’s stationary devices but also mobile consumer devices (smart watches, wearable monitors, etc.) or mobile real-time communications assets such as those used in ambulances. These devices can also be located anywhere the patient is required to be, such as in a daycare or school facility. These devices communicate "up" to the Internet by using Bluetooth or other low-energy network technology that can be connected via a smartphone, tablet, or other "Internet Gateway" via an App.
It is important for systems engineers and healthcare technology service providers to develop a strong understanding of this "Interverse", which is a combination of all the components and applications that make this work. Although no one entity controls all the pieces, we must be sure the products and services we recommend are certified to operate continuously throughout these environments.
The future is preventative warning such as credit-card sized devices like Cardia Mobil, and "wearables" included advanced diagnostics on Smart watches. Companies such as Semtech and Kore Technologies provide chipset-level products and services to enable Cellular IoT devices such as those used in healthcare. Their websites include blogs and application guides to describe the possibilities and how to overcome obstacles when a hospital device manufacturer or service provider needs to deploy IoT technology to service their patients’ remote diagnostic needs. This will lead to more devices for preventative medical warnings, such as the “Cardia Mobil” (R) credit-sized personal EKG and even more advanced diagnostics on Smart Watches, etc. This will all lead to the “Know before you Go” approach to doctor or hospital visits.
Oracle. (2022). What is IoT? Retrieved from Oracle: https://www.oracle.com/internet-of-things/what-is-iot