Blog: The Internet of Things - Evolution from man to machine

Ben Hope, October 2016

The internet of things, the connectivity between man and device, it’s being implemented everywhere, from coffee machines that can be programmed from your bedroom, to wearable technology tracking your heart rate and BMI. However, the idea of the digitally connected patient and HCP is still in its infancy. It begs the question, what will a world where man is interconnected with their machines look like, and how will this impact the healthcare industry? 

Wearable technology
Wearable technology

The internet of things, the connectivity between man and device, it’s being implemented everywhere, from coffee machines that can be programmed from your bedroom, to wearable technology tracking your heart rate and BMI. However, the idea of the digitally connected patient and HCP is still in its infancy. It begs the question, what will a world where man is interconnected with their machines look like, and how will this impact the healthcare industry? 

It is very likely that the impact will be huge; the internet of things is set to disrupt the current standard of care at all stages of healthcare; prevention, diagnosis and monitoring and treatment. 

I believe there are three fundamental innovations which will shape the healthcare industry as we know it; disease prevention monitoring, wearable technology, and technologies that allow care to be given from the home.

Wearable technology: Currently, most Internet of Things (IoT) applications consist of wearable technologies and are still predominantly concerned with monitoring. This trend is not surprising as chronic diseases are the most cumbersome for healthcare systems and monitoring offers numerous benefits, including patient safety and compliance.

Disease monitoring: Connected devices that impact disease prevention are largely designed around portable and at-home devices. Wearable devices have the highest rate of early adoption amongst the public - it was reported that between Q1 of 2014 to 2015 the market grew more than 300%, and is becoming more popular as time goes on. 

At home care: When looking to the future, one cannot help but look to the US; a report published by Goldman Sachs stated that chronic disease management in the US costs the healthcare system $1.1 trillion per year, of which 34.5% is attributable to hospital and emergency room visits. It is predicted that these costs can be dramatically reduced through remote patient monitoring, offering potential savings of over $205 billion per year. This is likely to be a big driver for healthcare providers to take technology companies and digital innovation seriously.

With all this innovation, it would be great to think that all our healthcare worries will be over thanks to scientific and technological advancement butall good sci-fi thrillers come with  challenge or threat. One of the greatest challenges faced in digitalising the healthcare world is cybersecurity. The sensitivity of patient information and confidentiality means that the possibility of hacking could have a major impact on the day-to-day processes of a healthcare facility and could undermine confidence of any digital implementation amongst users. 

So, what do we think the future of healthcare will be? Will we all be monitoring our own BMI on our wearable tech, manage multiple comorbidities at home whilst liaising with an online support source through an iPad… maybe? Will the future newspaper headlines be littered with stories of patient records being ‘wiki-leaked’, or tech companies being sued for wrongly monitoring patient vitals…maybe? Whatever the future holds, the change is already being embraced, and it might be wise to stay on the crest of the wave.

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