IoT and MedTech's Potential Impact On Patient Care

Patient care in America has been evolving for a while, and in 2016 more changes are expected in the entire sector. Data analytics is going to be incorporated into various treatment plans and medical staff will be learning how to work using new IT approaches in their daily routine. That basically means more expenses spent on new hi-tech medical tools and services implemented through video consultants, health applications and smartphones as diagnostic tools from healthcare and insurance providers as well as other new market players.

What is playing a bigger role each year is medical technology, or Medtech, that is a subset of health technology comprising a broad selection of medical care products utilized for diagnostic purposes, monitoring and/or treating illnesses and medical conditions that affect people’s lives. It widely covers various medical devices, IT, biotech and medical services. Medtech encompasses apps for medical science that are meant to optimize healthcare quality provided through diagnostics at an early stage with minimally invasive options of treatment and reduced period of time spent in hospitals and in rehab. One more of the latest focuses of medical technology is of course cutting costs.

The effect of Medtech can hardly be overrated as it covers both social and ethical problems. For instance, some doctors may find technology more objective than actual patients’ reports, which isn’t always so. Nonetheless, medtech consumerization is driving today’s growth of the industry. It is widely supported by providers who can reach numerous audiences with high accessibility of smartphones, tablets and wearables without spending a lot of funds. Therefore, an entire trend is getting consolidated while wearable tech is virally spread through the market.

All things considered, today’s patient care is value-based and it is obviously in need of efficient outcomes just as much as of lower costs. For that reason financial motives have been shifted towards a model where medical technology providers are paid based on health state of the patients, rather than on the amount of visits, tests and procedures done to the latter. And that motivates everyone to seek for working approaches that actually help and get paid accordingly.

Multiple organizations create value from data, the process that is called Information Value Loop. It covers the basic method of building information value with 4 different care types:

Wellness and prevention

The main goal of this Information Value Loop category is to concentrate on two kinds of patients: generally healthy ones and those at risk for particular chronic illnesses. Medtech for these fields is mostly built around at-home and portable devices.  However, wearables remain the most IoT-focused gadgets. Among them are activity monitors like measurement appliances (digital thermometers and electronic scales with a tracking app). These devices, nonetheless, are still very much off regular care channels and are disconnected and incompatible with the database.  As it turns out, there is a constriction in the data flow at the initial stage. The key to making a full use of IoT capabilities is merging wellness and prevention monitors with existing digital health-records systems.

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Chronic care

A lot of IoT gadgets are already on the market available for both patients and providers to monitor chronic illnesses like heart conditions, diabetes etc. They keep records of clinical data, adherence and consumer medical information. Feedback feature may help such patients become more involved into their own process of treatment and as a result they will make better decisions in terms of their health and overall medical state right away, minimizing a number of pricey doctor visits, tests and hospital stays, decreasing progression of their illness almost independently. With all that in mind, there is still a major issue in chronic care – connecting the devices for the sake of stable and secure communication.  Even though already popular heart-rate and blood-glucose sensors are widely spread and sold across the world markets, they’ve hardly been adjusted for data export to a system aggregating and sharing info with every party involved. Once communication challenges are solved, a much better home care and extended patient involvement in treatment will become very possible, resulting in better outcomes for the patients and lower costs for everyone.

Acute care

With patients of this category the major value is in provider-assisting apps. Some vendors are trying out systems which wirelessly connect different sensors with one another, measuring vital organs in ER and ICU in hospitals. The purpose of such systems is to decrease the amount of monitoring by providers in a rapidly changing environment where analytics determines concealed links between vitals and helps distinguishing actual changes in conditions, requiring immediate action from patients who accidentally pressed a button while being asleep. So, sensors that only create information are just the first step of the long path, and the most complicated yet crucial phase of the Value Loop comes next. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related tools are what’s really required to analyze the entire stack of data, and define significant details. Only when this works, a provider will be able to make more informed, optimized clinical decisions and deliver appropriate care.

Post-acute care

Technically monitoring of post-acute care is pretty much the same as chronic-illness care. There are certain conditions under which post-acute services are provided and they manage to push remote monitoring tech. More advanced technologies, however, are being developed, and this should allow for more accurate and efficient monitoring in the post-acute settings, particularly in catching complications at an early stage, promoting patient consent. So, the key challenge in this type of care setting is to build more data from a larger amount of improved sensors.

According to Deloitte University Press, two general approaches can be distinguished once a careful analysis is done:

Domination of the whole value loop in a single setting

It normally focuses on finishing the loop for one illness or a problem in a single care setting. Apps within this business model have the advantage of decreasing waste and allowing for better-made decisions about treatment, as well as empowering better results of care. The goal is to create standards of the device-to-device communication requirements and build an ecosystem of illness-management services and products.

One stage domination of what’s common to various value loops in multiple settings

Both patients and tech providers require an approach allowing for integration of all of the relevant medical data, and that’s what Medtech companies are able and attempt to create. The goal of this business model is to provide such an approach through combining a great number of sensor data sources from consumers. In any case, both businesses and governments are working on interoperability increase and data aggregation aid, although the progress hasn’t been quick due to complexity of the issue.

A lot of established healthcare providers will probably be intimidated by these business models, taking into account that the new players will passionately fight for customer value. But then old-timers will surely survive! Do you agree?

I’m a freelance Copywriter whose career started nearly 15 years ago as an English teacher turning into a Sales associate/Account manager and ending up writing from home for over 4 years now. I believe it is vital for a versatile professional to constantly develop various skills, thus I’m always open and excited for new projects.

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