Top tips is a weekly column where we highlight what’s trending in the tech world and list ways to explore these trends. This week we’re looking at four revolutionary ways IoT is transforming healthcare.
The past four years have brought about a series of unprecedented events that challenged our worldview, our lifestyle, and most importantly, how we view healthcare. With the rapid implementation of socioeconomic changes came rapid digitization, which in turn brought about a fresh outlook on how we utilize existing technology, including but not limited to healthcare.
Recently, healthcare has emerged as one of the key industries undergoing rapid digitization. With increasing patient volumes and a rising demand for precision healthcare, the applications of emerging technologies such as AI and ML, which streamline processes, provide hyper-accurate diagnoses, and provide an exceptional patient experience, are becoming all too common.
According to a 2022 survey by Statistia, 52% of American adults used remote consultations (telemedicine), and this number is growing exponentially. But this is only scratching the surface. The applications of digital technology in healthcare are manifold—let’s look at some of the more critical use cases.
1. Remote patient monitoring
Gone are the days when a recently discharged patient has to go back to the hospital for periodic follow-ups. Remote patient monitoring allows for health parameters such as glucose level, weight, and blood pressure to be monitored.
Utilizing wireless-enabled sensors to measure and collect physiological data, this data can be tracked using mobile or desktop applications and also stored in a centralized database which can also be accessed by medical facilities. This data can be analyzed by medical professionals in individual instances or by medical history, based on the requirement.
Being able to remotely measure and analyze a patient’s physiology provides transparency into their healthcare history and allows them to act in a timely manner when it comes to getting medical help. A patient can get constant feedback and medical support and also have peace of mind when they’re able to see that they’re in good health.
2. Depression and mood monitoring
Let me state for the record that today’s technological advancements can not always accurately assess someone’s mental health or detect mental health conditions, but neither can a professional. That being said, ML models can now be trained to detect someone’s mood by measuring parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure, and get predictive analyses on mental health.
Mood-aware wearables and monitoring devices can apply ML models to provide timely mental health assessments. Devices installed in your car that can monitor road rage incidents, and AI-enabled sensors in your mirrors that can read facial expressions, are just a couple of examples of how existing technology can be applied to get a good read on your mental state.
A recent study found that abnormal eye movement can be directly linked to depression. Using the models they’ve been trained on, AI-enabled sensors can provide insightful data and analyses simply by detecting anomalies in one’s eye movement and creating a correlation between the anomalous behavior and depression. This is a massive step in the right direction for early detection and treatment of mental health conditions.
Ingestible sensors, which are about the size of a capsule and can be popped like capsules, have now hit the market. Currently, these ingestibles are being used to measure basic physiological parameters such as gut pH level and internal body temperature, and they then send the data to your mobile device. However, in the very near future, ingestible sensors will be able to be used to diagnose and treat more severe medical issues.
A team of scientists at MIT recently managed to detect stomach bleeding in lab mice using ingestible sensors. Lactococcus lactis, the bacteria responsible for curdling milk, works better in your gut in the presence of heme, a compound in your blood responsible for binding oxygen. These bacteria have the capacity to detect too much heme, which is not good for your body.
Scientists managed to extract L.lactis’s heme-detecting DNA and couple it with code for bacterial bioluminescence. They then injected this genetic code into probiotic E. coli bacteria, which in turn was stuffed into ingestible capsules. When administered to mice with induced stomach bleeding, the sensors lit up immediately upon coming into contact with the excess heme.
The next logical step would be to begin testing in humans. A few small tweaks and this technology could be ready to hit the markets in no time. This type of sensing technology can be a revolutionary tool in medicine, helping in early detection and diagnoses of a variety of gut issues.
4. Robotic surgery
Today’s robotic surgery technology can be characterized by minimally invasive technology that assists doctors in performing complex procedures with heightened precision and flexibility. Tools such as cameras and robotic arms that can be controlled by doctors provide increased control during surgical procedures.
IoT-powered instruments like scalpels and forceps are capable of collecting real-time data during surgical procedures. Parameters such as force applied during incisions as well as body tissue characteristics can be measured, tracked, and analyzed to help surgeons make better decisions during medical procedures.
The future of IoT-assisted medicine
We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of what IoT is capable of in the field of healthcare. IoT can make healthcare more accessible and cheaper for patients. Personalized healthcare with more access to information is something patients can look forward to in the future, resulting in a hassle-free medical experience altogether.