We have all been there: the routine doctor’s visit. The doctor begins by updating your medical files — recent ailments, family history, medications you are taking, and so on. You begin reciting your answers, but you almost never fail to forget something: that hard-to-pronounce medication you take for that one thing … that ailment you can never remember the name of. The doctor flips through your chart but finds nothing because you were diagnosed by another specialist who also prescribed that medication. It is a frustrating scenario for everyone involved and slows — or even negates — proper care all together.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Is Transforming Healthcare
Luckily, the Internet has the potential to change all that. In fact, IoT has the potential to completely transform the way we interact with the healthcare industry as a whole. Though just moving out of its infancy, IoT could eventually create a system in which your healthcare is accessible to you — the consumer — no matter which physician you see, for what reason, or in what location.
Building the Foundation
While this may sound simplistic, there is still much work to be done to arrive at this end state. First, hospitals and medical professionals alike must implement streamlined, comprehensive electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Many providers and healthcare systems are currently using EMRs, while others still need to make the conversion from paper files to electronic records. From there, we need to enable these EMR systems to communicate with one another. It does not do much good to see three doctors who each use an EMR if none of their systems are connected. Ideally, physicians should have access to a current and comprehensive record of your health and healthcare needs, including all tests, lab work, illnesses, and injuries, as well as periods of good health.
It is vital that all of your medical information be fed into a connected EMR system. Any bloodwork, diagnoses, MRIs, CT scans, or other tests you have done can then be added to your comprehensive profile so that all physicians and medical providers are working with the same information. Even better, if your profile is created at an early age, it will give physicians a baseline from which to note any anomalies as they may occur throughout your life.
Finally, we can begin integrating the data that people are collecting daily about their own health. Wearable technologies — like Fitbits and Apple Watches — mean we now have more information about patient health than ever before, and including this into a comprehensive profile means better, more accurate care has never been more possible.
Proactive Healthcare Revolution
It is about more than just your medical history. This comprehensive approach to healthcare not only means that doctors can prompt you when you have missed a scheduled appointment, but also that they can remind you to have a prescription refilled if you have forgotten. Better compliance with doctor’s orders means better health, and ultimately, lower healthcare costs for the provider and the individual.
Imagine this scenario: a diabetic patient is supposed to walk 10,000 steps each day to help manage her condition. Her doctor checks in on her periodically and discovers that she is only averaging 3,000 steps each day. The doctor can then follow up gently to address the situation and make sure preventative measures are taken to thwart a future trip to the emergency room.
The bottom line here is that the IoT will allow healthcare providers to assist patients with proactively managing health. Step one is to ensure that healthcare providers have access to comprehensive data points regarding your health, but being able to use that data and turn it into actionable information is the key component. Giving healthcare providers access to a system of comprehensive medical records will enable them to better understand all aspects of their patients’ health conditions. Doctors will then be better equipped to help patients understand what they need to do next and why, completely revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
Of course, this is not something that will happen overnight; however, it is exciting to know that within our lifetime — perhaps even within the next decade — we will see the scope of care drastically changed in the medical industry — all due to data, digital information, and the Internet of Things.