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IoT and healthcare: near real-time health monitoring on hospital floors

Author: Adam Kimmel

The global pandemic has uncovered a need for the healthcare industry to incorporate IoT and healthcare technology. Traditional vital sign readings such as blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate don't always fully describe a patient's condition. While a critical part of patient care, a delay in vital sign measurements alone can create delays in diagnosing a patient's illness, hindering the doctors' ability to develop a solution. IoT in healthcare has helped address this challenge with remote patient monitoring (RPM), which provides medical staff with a stream of data in order to provide near-real time health monitoring across the entire hospital floor. In addition to helping hospital staff diagnose patients more rapidly, the use of remote monitors can extend data collection from the hospital floor to the patient's home.

With such a powerful way to monitor health, the speed of data transmission and analytics determines how rapidly the medical staff can respond to a change in patient conditions. This is where 5G could have a colossal impact. IoT in healthcare helps create the highway of information paths between hospitals and patients, and 5G is the underlying technology that is designed to support a massive number of connected devices, while increasing the speed limit and lowering delays for delivering accurate and reliable data.

Implementing near-real time health monitoring

Two of the most anticipated benefits of 5G are its improved speed and low latency, decreasing the time to transmit data and expanding the world of edge computing. Healthcare will benefit from the speed gains and lower latency of a 5G-based IoT solution. For an industry where speeding up the delivery of critical information, every second matters. Delivering data to medical staff sooner may dramatically improve patient outcomes. Examples of healthcare devices you could connect with an IoT solution in the future include 3D imaging, smart mattresses for insight into the patient's movements, respiratory monitors and wearable monitors for critical biometrics.

Wearable monitors could change the doctor-patient relationship, as the doctor could obtain real-time data, make corrections to the treatment plan and implement the plan without the patient coming in for a visit. In addition to reducing the treatment time, managing patients remotely should free up hospital beds for more severe cases.

IT considerations

With the expansion of 5G, applying IoT to healthcare could be a fast way to determine an appropriate treatment path. To determine the level of tech you need, assess the quantity and severity of cases in the hospital over a defined period: Could the cases be managed remotely given the right wearable monitoring solution? What would be the impact of freeing up beds as a result of enabling more remote patient monitoring, enabling you to treat a higher number of patients per day?

Analyzing the answers to the questions above determines how sophisticated you can get.

The hospital's IT department would need to consider upgrading the infrastructure to receive the influx of data coming in. Also, doctors, nurses and staff would need devices capable of receiving data, and the medical team might need the training to ensure they know how to access, store and transfer the information. Before technicians can install IoT solutions, you must assess, confirm or upgrade the network and security.

Network

Because in-building connectivity and bandwidth management are barriers to IoT solution deployment, there likely will not be a switch-flip to go from the current state to full connectivity. The benefits of 5G could make it your desired end state. Until that time, build a roadmap from the current Wi-Fi and 4G mix to a hybrid Wi-Fi/IoT device with cellular backhaul to 5G-based IoT solution. This glide path will minimize disruption to operations and provide staff the time they need to adapt to the new way of patient care.

Security

As the monitoring site moves away from direct hospital control, maintaining data security can become more difficult. Patients will be increasingly mobile, and the amount of sensitive data to protect will grow exponentially. Planning for and implementing a robust and secure 5G architecture could be the best way to prepare for the security challenge.

Realizing the benefits of IoT and healthcare

Smart health monitoring may improve patient outcomes by providing doctors more targeted, accurate information sooner. Preparing, planning for and implementing 5G and IoT could maximize the impact of this shift, setting you up for the patient care model of the future.

Discover more about how to keep your IoT ecosystem secure with IoT Security Credentialing.