Being presented by some as the defining event of our generation, the outbreak of Covid-19 has already closed down borders, forced schools and businesses to close, and left many under social isolation or quarantine to limit the spread of the virus.
The largest disruption and the most strain at this time is undoubtedly on healthcare services, as this virus appeared out of nowhere and has overwhelmed local services and hospitals alike.
In such a desperate situation, IoT devices may be able to alleviate some of the largest strains on doctors and nurses simply by making remote appointments possible, and making sure that high-risk patients do not have to leave their home to receive their usual treatment.
IoT in Hospitals
Connecting health systems together can reduce a huge amount of manual admin tasks by consolidating EMRs (electronic medical records), scheduling systems, and patient monitoring into one place. As all hospital resources are being stretched, having a tool to monitor patients all around the hospital and ensure that medication is delivered effectively will be a massive help.
Apart from the many cases of coronavirus sectioning off parts of hospitals and taking up a huge proportion of hospital staff’s time and attention, other high-risk patients still require the same levels of care. Devices that monitor glucose levels for diabetic patients, keep track of blood pressure and heart rate levels and alert to issues, for example, can allow hospital staff to take care of these patients remotely while in another section of the hospital.
Devices for patients at home can also connect to EMRs (electronic medical records) so that chronically ill patients do not necessarily have to visit the hospital or medical centre while still being attended by medical staff.
Connected medication & at-home care
Medical IoT devices that stay-at-home with patients are already being used to improve out-patient care and reduce recurring appointments and these devices can be taken advantage of even further during a crisis situation.
The above-mentioned glucose and blood pressure monitoring devices can be used by patients at home to make sure their care goes uninterrupted for the coming weeks. This includes things like reminders to exercise and medication alerts, and direct connection with medical devices to make sure that critical events like a heart irregularity or diabetic attack can be responded to immediately.
Connected medication is another way to reduce strain on medical staff. By giving patients regular alerts to take their medication and encouraging them to stick to the full course, doctors and caregivers have a real-time record of patients taking medication and can track the patient’s progress by connecting with other medical records. This is especially crucial for at-risk patients or those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia who may struggle to keep track of medication without regular at-home visits. Adhering to a regular course of medication is vital at any time, but when medical resources are stretched to their limits, ensuring that patients at home do not require any extra assistance is paramount.
Aside from helping reduce the burden on medical services right now, using connected medication could also help to develop a vaccine faster. By measuring patient progress and the effects of new drugs in real-time, researchers could conduct dispersed remote trials and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that would work on a wider base of individuals.
Maximising output and minimising stress
Nothing is certain about this current health crisis, we don’t know when it will be over or what the fallout will look like. But we do know that we have the tools available to reduce the risk as much as possible and help to alleviate healthcare services when they need it the most.
Simply by maximizing the number of patients that can be attended to by doctors in the hospitals, and reducing the number of people that need to come into the hospital for regular appointments, IoT could take a huge weight off the shoulders of medical staff.
As events unfold, IoT could well play a big part in alleviating the strain on our healthcare systems, only time will tell if remote care is ready for such a task.