The new digital era is upon us and with the advances in technology at an all-time high there is a real buzz around the possibility of big data and connectivity.
You might have heard of M2M communications and the ‘Internet of Things’, otherwise known as IOT. But, what does it mean for those of us working within the healthcare profession and what does it mean for the future of the provision of healthcare? Our Chief Medical Engineer, Daron Wilson, with over 20 years’ experience in the field takes a look.
It’s no secret that the use of smart, connected devices provides companies with ever more detailed customer insight data. Not only is this valuable data but it can also help redefine the design of physical products, it can also help to determine efficient distribution channels and moderate pricing.
It’s so effective that every sector is adopting the technology in one shape or another.
M2M Communication is the umbrella term used to describe any technology that enables two machines to transfer data and information between them, without human intervention. It’s rapidly becoming the key component with the ‘Internet of Things’ and in a report by Global Info Research the market is set to expand from $939 million in 2018 to $2.7 billion by 2023.
But it’s important not to get confused between the two. IOT refers to the grander scale of connectivity synergising vertical software stacks to automate and manage communications between multiple devices, M2M communications refers to the specific isolated instances of device to device connectivity.
In the future IOT will rely heavily on M2M communications and is likely to exceed other data streams with machines being the primary data generators and consumers on networks.
This type of technology is already having a profound effect within the healthcare profession, in particular on medical devices and we can expect to see revolutionary changes in the near future.
Intelligent manufacturing will enable real-time reporting on medical equipment faults, spotting patterns and giving insights to avoid these faults and errors in the long-term. Such technology could lead to the streamlining of production and the reduction of inventory costs. It can also contribute to the post-marketing surveillance of medical devices allowing manufacturers to monitor new devices even after they have been delivered to the market to ensure their safety and effectiveness.
The creation of a SMART hospital is now a reality and will play a key role in reevaluating how healthcare organisations work in the future. A SMART hospital will combine technology, automation and IT, the result to drive higher productivity and efficiency. By automating manual work, healthcare professionals will be freed-up for their core work; focusing on their patient’s needs.
Data that is generated and communicated through connected machines is also considered to be more accurate and reliable when compared to other data sources like human-generated data, making data from connected machinery more preferable.
By using connected devices healthcare organisations can reduce overall overhead costs within staffing and maintenance. Being wire-free has its advantages and can make further cost savings as the process becomes hassle-free, with minimal need for human intervention.
The possibilities are just endless;
Automated alerting systems are being introduced that record and remind patients when to take their medication, but they can also track a patient’s movements. If there is cause for concern about a patient’s welfare the system can send out alerts to medical professionals or caregivers to ensure they receive the necessary care straight away.
Monitoring the vital signs of a patient remotely is now a possibility too by using wireless enabled devices that allow healthcare professionals to continuously monitor the vital signs of their patients with ICU-level accuracy, using a wearable and non-invasive device. Healthcare professionals can reduce the number of times they need to see patients suffering from a chronic-illness such as diabetes as they can monitor their well-being remotely.
How will this work in practice?
In reality, hospitals and healthcare organisations will need to work in partnership with manufacturers and third party organisations to manage the implementation and maintenance of such wireless devices and machines.
IT professionals would be required to manage and analyse the huge amount of data generated and formulate this into easy data that can be interpreted by the end user – the healthcare professional. This has its advantages and could lead to huge cost savings and streamlining of services, as the responsibility would be split between the private and public sector organisations to manage and maintain.
With government healthcare operations coming under increased scrutiny the advances in technology present the perfect opportunity to upgrade and invest in the future of healthcare services in the UK.