Hospitals have adopted IoT devices across almost every aspect of the patient, doctor, and administrator experience — from checking in, to hospital bracelets, to bed monitors, to equipment repair sensors. In fact, the global healthcare sector is expected to invest $410B into IoT devices, software, and services in 2022. NewtonX recently conducted a survey with hospital technology executives at 100 hospitals in the U.S., in order to determine the opportunities, barriers, and technological advances in the IoT for healthcare sector.
The survey analysis revealed the top IoT devices in hospitals, as well as bourgeoning new investments that are garnering the most interest. Survey respondents estimated that the value of Health IoT will exceed $150B by 2020, with projected growth of almost 30% over the coming year.
From Smart Pills to Temporary Smart Tattoos: The Top Applications for Health IoT
The widely rolled out health IoT products in hospitals are:
- Smart infant tagging
- Fall management systems
- Patient and staff flow systems
- Protection for at-risk patients and staff
- Inventory management
- Smart machine monitoring
These different systems leverage connected technologies to anticipate and prevent accidents (such as falls or critical machine failures). For instance, STANLEY, a health IoT solutions brand, has equipped 1,600 hospitals worldwide with infant tagging systems to prevent infant abduction and mother-baby mismatches. The system is also used for flight risk and high-risk patients such as dementia patients, prison inmates, and psych ward patients in over 5,000 hospitals.
While almost all of the largest hospitals have implemented at least two of the above IoT technologies, there are newer IoT applications that are just emerging and being piloted at certain hospitals. For instance, multiple pharma companies including PharmaTech and TruTag have developed “smart pills” to help monitor medication adherence, monitor health issues, and protect health organizations from risks.
Other promising IoT technologies include smart temporary tattoos and smart hospital bracelets or adhesives for tagging and tracking. Hospital bracelets collect germs, can be difficult to read, and are irritating for many pediatric and psych patients, which is why many hospital administrators are interested in alternatives. For instance, the chairman of head and neck surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York is piloting an adhesive called “The Shield” that can be placed anywhere on the body at Lenox Hill on 50 Neurosurgery patients. Another group of doctors developed a temporary body ink called BodyGuard ID that that won a $15,000 innovation prize rom Blue Cross Blue Shield, that the doctors are using to apply for a patent. The BodyGuard ID has the benefit of being non-irritating, impossible for kids and other patients to remove, and easy to apply.
While all of these IoT applications have enormous utility in hospitals, they also come with risks: the amount of data that IoT devices produce is astronomical, and in a medical setting, protecting this data is crucial.
The Dark Side of Smart Hospitals: Security and Data Protection
The executives surveyed for this piece indicated that they have two primary concerns over rolling out IoT in hospitals: security/privacy and legacy systems. On average, hospitals have diverted just 12% of their annual IT budgets to IoT solutions, meaning that in order for successful implementation to occur, IoT technologies must not require the full overhaul of legacy systems.
Additionally, because IoT devices generate so much sensitive data in hospital contexts, it’s paramount that hospitals have robust security and privacy systems in place. The executives interviewed for this piece said that security consists of mapping (identifying every area that the data touches), network securing, storage, and cybersecurity partnerships. In fact, executives reported spending a larger percentage of the budget on data security and privacy protection than on IoT software and devices themselves.
IoHT’s Bright Future
The internet of things in healthcare has become so essential to hospital operations that in fact it has its own acronym: IoHT. The sector is expected to grow faster than any other IoT use case, and will continue to be one of the most successful examples of how the technology can change lives for the better.