As per Market & Market reports, the global Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare market size is expected to grow to USD 188.0 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.6% throughout the forecast period. This may increase further as during and after the pandemic IoT can play a vital role for doctors and nurses to reduce their burden and improve their own safety. Healthcare CIOs have the challenge to identify and successfully implement these solutions in their organizations.
Let us look at how IoT and AI can help the healthcare industry to accelerate patient-care by taking precautionary measures. Below are different areas of healthcare where IoT and AI will play a crucial role post COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Wearable Devices
Biggest application of IoT in healthcare domain is wearable devices which helps to collect vital signs and health status from users. Further, it also keeps users connected to the cloud so that they transmit information. After collecting and analysing huge amount of data on cloud, provider can take necessary decision. Let’s discuss a couple of use cases.
Admitted Patient Data
It is quite important to get vital readings of patients frequently to provide them with proper medication. These readings include temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygen level in blood, sugar level and others. Healthcare professionals need to visit the infected patients from time to time, and, may have to make physical contact with them to take these measurements. This increases the chances of being infected.
Connected wearable devices with IoT can measure all vitals from them at scheduled time. Different sensors attached with wearable device will collect all the data and send it to IoT Gateway through Bluetooth, ZigBee, or other wireless protocol. This data would be collected and displayed at cloud. Further, it analyses and informs the nursing station immediately to attend the patients in critical conditions. It gives an alert when temperature rises from threshold level or oxygen level reduces from certain level.
Maintaining social distancing is major concern at different places like patient ward, laboratories, and pharmacy areas as it may spread the virus if huge crowd is gathered. So people occupancy is required to control at these areas to maintain social distancing. Wearable devices with geo tracking sensor can send data about each device’s current location and alert when people exceed from predefined limit at specific area. With such information from devices, administrator get to know and can make an announcement via paging system to clear area and maintain social distance.
Wearable devices with IoT sensor also help to analyse specific region condition. Mass temperature screening and contact tracing data can be taken from mass population and collected at central location or in cloud. These devices sense body temperature periodically and reports to the cloud. Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning algorithm analyses this large amount of data and can provide statistics in which city temperature is rising in large amount of crowd. Bluetooth enabled wearable devices provide information to health authority regarding close contacts of infected person to identify and trace them.
Other Use Cases
Bluetooth enabled connected devices also useful to provide an alert to user for not maintaining social distance at public places. Bluetooth sense if distance with other device is less than 6 feet and alert user with vibration or beep sound. It also alerts user if infected person has come in close contacts of below 6 feet.
For authority, it is difficult to trace the person without having real-time location information. Wearable device is useful when someone travels from another country or city and needs to go in to quarantine for a prescribed period. Geo-location tracking functionality in the device reports authority if person leaves that location during the quarantine period.
Researchers have found that COVID-19 virus enters in the human body from nose, mouth, or eyes. Artificial Intelligence with the help of proximity sensor also detects and notify user if he/she touches his/her face, nose, or eyes. This helps when user is going to public place and program device in outdoor mode.
Above use cases described that IoT enabled wearable devices help in:
- Realtime monitoring
- Large amount of data collection on cloud
- Quick decision making with edge computing
- Faster response time with data analysis on cloud
2. Telemedicine and Remote Diagnostic
As we have noticed that during the pandemic and lockdown, it is difficult to reach a hospital for regular check-ups and medical treatment. Telemedicine and remote diagnostic help during and post this situation as many patients may avoid travelling. With teleconsulting, a virtual visit can be made without exposing staff to direct contacts with the patients.
With multiple channels of communication such as video, voice, text and digital exchange of data, doctors can diagnose the patient and prescribe medicines. These communication channels do not provide patient’s critical data accurately. But with the help of portable IoT devices, different data is captured and sent to the doctor which will help them to prescribe suitable medicines. Such devices can collect below data of patients remotely.
- Body temperature
- Sugar and oxygen level in blood
- Digital images of ear, throat, and other outer body parts
With the help of various attachments and high definition camera in the devices, such information is captured and sent to IoT Gateway and to cloud platform for storage, analysis and decision making.
Moreover, remote diagnostic further extends to remote drug dispensing. This unit helps to dispense drug based on inputs provided to doctor with different sensor data and doctor can prescribe medicine.
3. Robotics and Automation
Robotics and automation help in various activities in hospital. Starting from delivering drug to patients to doing complex surgery. Robotics cart serves medicine, food, and other essentials to patients and helps in reducing close contact. Robotics and automation also improve the efficiency of medical staff as they can serve more patients by transferring mundane tasks to the robots. Robotic assistance also gathers various information of patients and enter automatically in the Electronics Health Record (EHR) of them. This information can be of different types; such as an AI enabled camera can identify if medicine is consumed by patient when delivered by cart and, it can monitor and update vital statistics of patient to nursing station.
AR-VR technology helps in doing complex surgeries remotely with high precision. Due to lockdown and unavailability of transportation, medical experts are not able to travel for such surgeries. Da Vinci surgical system from Intuitive Surgical has opened door for complex robotic surgery. It is controlled by surgeon from the console and remote expert can also be a part of it. Precision of robotic arm reduces the complication in surgery compare to open laparoscopic surgery. Further, Microbot with IoT sensor assists in diagnostics of infection by injecting inside the body.
Other automation devices such as Smart Air Purifiers which cleans the air and maintains optimum quality of air. Connected air purifiers in hospital, alerts when air quality index reduces from certain level and all purifiers can be managed remotely with dashboard and mobile application. Auto Disinfectants with robots sanitise the hospital areas, operation theatre and infected patient room in the hospitals. This also reduces human intervention and stop spread of the virus.
As we have seen during the pandemic, drones have become popular for various tasks of spraying disinfectants, remote monitoring of the contaminated zones and delivery. Post COVID-19 also drones can become popular in various tasks such as sanitising outer hospital areas, large compounds, and others. It assists in delivering medicines to contaminated zones, which reduces burden on the medical staff. It also accelerates the process of medical essentials supply such as blood, vaccine, and emergency injections.
Remote monitoring of infected zones and hospital areas can be done with drones. Its AI enabled camera can report any discrepancies in such area. With connected camera, drone helps the ambulance by clearing the traffic on the route. Such multiple connected drones with IoT sensors collect and report various data to cloud platform for further analysis and decision making.
COVID-19 outbreak has changed living pattern of the human being. People have become more concerned about their hygiene and safety. Healthcare industry has also faced many challenges with facilities and infrastructure crunch. Massive number of patients infected with virus made healthcare workers also stressed. IoT enabled connected devices helps in reducing this stress as well as automate and accelerate the treatment. Moreover, Artificial Intelligence supported by Machine Learning algorithm can help analyse and generate insights with huge amount of data received from IoT connected devices.
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