The Medical Internet of Things – and how it is changing the way we live
Our devices are becoming smarter, and so too are the programs that they use. With internet connectivity in everything from smart phones to shoes, how will this change our lives and the way we experience medical assistance?
Remember when your first got the internet? Your first internet connection no doubt involved a dial-up router—that special gadget that connected you to your internet service provider, providing a gateway to all of the magic and wonder of the internet.
Remember the little jingle that ‘the internet’ would make as its connection was formed? Along with the ring tone of the Nokia 3310, the distinctive ‘bing-bong-chhhh’ sound of dial-up internet is now well and truly archived the minds of anyone old enough to have experienced internet in the early millennium. And most of us didn’t even notice when this familiar sound disappeared from our daily lives. Just like we hardly noticed when wi-fi internet was introduced and when it was suddenly everywhere.
In a similar way, smartphones and monitoring devices have slipped seamlessly into our modern lives. Social media networks can tell you what your great aunt Thelma had for breakfast. Your Fitbit analyses your sleep and wake patterns from the past month while apps on your phone analyse your macronutrient content and can project precisely how much weight you’ll lose by next summer. The once simple and humble fridge has evolved from an ice box to a computer which can tell you which foods you’re running out of and re-order them on your behalf.
In this way, technology advances faster than we can keep track of. More and more devices are being created with wi-fi capabilities and sensors built into them. Smart phone penetration is sky rocketing. Enter ‘The Internet of Things’: a term used to describe the ever-increasing myriad of devices which can now connect to the internet and / or each other. These include fridges, mobile phones, coffee machines, headphones, lamps, shoes, washing machines and almost anything else you can think of. In fact it is estimated that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices running on the planet.
So what does The Internet of Things mean for you and how will it change the way we live and work? Like all technologies, the interconnectedness of The Internet of Things seeks to make life easier. Imagine if your car could text your manager to tell him you’re running late to a meeting. Your 6am alarm could tell your coffee machine to brew your espresso so its ready to sip the moment you step out of bed. Your smartphone could provide you with the fastest route home at the click of a button; it could hail the nearest bus with the shortest route, pay for your ticket and prompt your oven at home to start up for dinner.
And in the medical field, The Medical Internet of Things has the capacity to revolutionise the way we view and access healthcare. Your wearable device could send your doctor daily reports on your blood pressure, heart rate, calorie intake and activity levels. By collecting data that was traditionally recorded at a doctor’s office, your smart device could provide your GP with a more comprehensive view of your overall health, without you needing to lift a finger. Wearable devices are already being used to remind patients to take their medication and report in on any unusual symptoms. Hospitals are already using The Medical Internet of Things to optimise surgical workflow and alert families when loved ones are out of surgery, boosting patient satisfaction and streamlining the treatment process.
Smart beds are now being used in hospitals to sense the presence of a patient and automatically adjust to the correct angle and pressure, providing proper support without the need for a nurse to intervene. Ultrasounds, thermometers, glucose monitors, electrocardiograms and more are all starting to become connected and letting patients track their health – changing the way doctors approach follow up appointments.
In fact, over the next five years the traditional ‘doctor-patient’ model is expected to be turned completely inside out. Just as Docto enables patients to access comprehensive medical and specialist care from the comfort of their own homes, self-monitoring devices will do away with the need for routine routine check-ups and appointments.
Devices and sensors in our homes and on our bodies will increasingly allow us to look after ourselves. These devices will integrate seamlessly with Docto services, meaning your online consult will easily include a blood pressure check, weight assessment, blood glucose test or even ultrasound. There will be less need for doctors to refer you for pathology, as even blood tests could be done from home. The potential for this and many more device-integrated services is entirely limitless and the changes are already in action.
With a rapidly ageing population and a move to shorten hospital stays, The Medical Internet of Things in conjunction with Docto will not only alleviate stresses on the modern health care system, it will make life immeasurably easier for those who would prefer to receive safe and comprehensive medical care in the comfort of their own home. The future looks bright, and it is already here.