IoT In Healthcare: More Than Just A Fancy New Toy

Susan Rafizadeh

Can technology improve collaboration between doctors, patients, and payers?

Yes. The Internet of Things (IoT), health wearables, and health apps all offer this promise. Sensors can send real-time data on blood sugar, body weight, heart rate, and more to doctors and patients. This can enable new therapeutic approaches. The implications for diabetes, depression, and even cardiovascular diseases are vast, and many other potential benefits are still uncharted.

Faster, better patient care

In the past, medical intervention has faced many obstacles. Appointments may have occurred infrequently, with few channels of communication between appointments. If a doctor or a patient saw a problem, it wasn’t always easy to discuss. Perhaps the therapy lacked the intended efficacy, or the patient was unsuccessful in making necessary lifestyle changes. How many of us promise to exercise, for example, only to be pulled away to other commitments?

The opportunities technology promises extend beyond increased transparency. Technology can send alerts triggered by intelligent algorithms, enabling, for the first time, potentially life-saving live feedback loops.

Outcome-based payments

Health wearables can also trigger new opportunities to develop outcome-based payment models in healthcare. The collected data not only documents therapy adherence by the patient, it also shows whether specific indicators have improved or worsened. Payers can be alerted when outcomes meet or exceed expectations and double down on those therapeutic investments; conversely, they can reduce funding of ineffective treatments. This makes updating a patient’s treatment plan more cost-effective.

More opportunities for R&D in precision medicine

Physicians are often limited to small data sets bound to their specific practice. Scientists are working to anonymize data from health wearables, which will allow physicians to use larger data sets to guide their patients. Today, patients often receive widely varying medical advice when seeking out second (or even third) opinions. Anonymized data sets will allow better visibility into patient populations so physicians can offer patients more consistent medical advice. This in turn will enable patients to focus less on which advice to take and more on improving their health.

A push for life sciences companies to engage more strongly in prevention

Connected care can also help track a patient’s health arc and monitor disease risk factors over time. For instance, prenatal diabetes is an early indicator of future diabetic risk. Enrolling at-risk patients in a connected care plan early can help them reduce the risk of full-blown diabetes later in life.

A pioneer in diabetes prevention, Roche has developed a connected care package called Roche Diabetes Care with Accu-Chek. The plan measures activity (steps), glucose, and body weight to help manage active diabetics as well as to prevent future cases. Healthier lifestyles that include better nutrition and more exercise can help those who are at risk.

Data privacy: A show-stopper?

Reliable data protection and trust are key factors in the success of any connected care health plan. A study across 23 countries by The Economist Intelligence Unit found 79% of healthcare executives believe mobile technology is informing their decisions. Half (50%) believe that mobile health will help patients to proactively participate in their own care. McKinsey found out that more than 75% of patients expect to use digital services in the future.

What do you think about IoT in health sciences, connected care, and patient engagement?

To learn more about technology trends in life sciences and how they shape the industry’s future, read the whitepaper The Digital Health Sciences Network, and follow @SAP_Healthcare on Twitter.

Susan Rafizadeh

About Susan Rafizadeh

Susan Rafizadeh is the director of Global Marketing for Life Sciences Industries at SAP. In her role, she writes publications on innovation topics in the life sciences industry covering pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and biotech as well as looking after life sciences marketing across the globe. Before joining SAP, she led the Customer Relations team at TechniData, a company offering IT solutions for sustainability; here she was responsible for building and developing relationships with future and existing customers. She has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing and communications in various roles, including journalism, being an analyst in an economics institute and content creation and production for specialized conferences, mainly focusing on highly regulated industries.