Think back to the last time you visited a doctor’s office or hospital. Chances are that the first thing that happened was that someone took your temperature, checked your blood pressure and noted your weight. These three health screening activities have become standard practices no longer considered optional by either patients or medical professionals. You expect them to happen.
Much like today’s blood pressure check, M2M technology will soon become indispensable in the healthcare industry.
It’s no secret that the U.S. healthcare system is currently undergoing drastic changes not only in the way it is financed, but also in the way it is delivered. M2M has the potential to catalyze innovation and disruption in the current healthcare services paradigm — both in cost savings and improved outcomes.
While the potential uses for M2M in healthcare continue to grow as the technology is expanded, the following applications are poised to make an impact sooner rather than later:
Networked facilities. Healthcare facilities enabled with M2M will be capable of delivering real-time patient information to providers because every piece of equipment and every monitoring device will be networked. Connected devices also can be set up for automated care delivery (e.g., precise medication administration), freeing staff for other critical duties and involving doctors only when they are actually required.
Facilities enabled with this technology not only will reduce the potential for human error in treatment, but also may help improve care. Moreover, data collected from the ongoing monitoring of patients can be aggregated into large data sets and further analyzed to discover new trends, optimize workflows and improve treatment.
Mobile Health. The smartphone revolution is universally changing the way consumers behave and business is conducted. A recent Nielsen report shows that 64% of Americans now own a smartphone, and that this number is growing rapidly in all age demographics. This trend has enabled the advent of mobile health (or mHealth) and is one of the cornerstones of disruptive innovation for increasing access to healthcare.
Mobile health leverages connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and other M2M-enabled devices to improve patient health through a variety of applications. The results are significant reductions in cost and time associated with traditional healthcare. Public health officials can use mHealth applications to collect community and clinical health data needed to design policies and programs. And healthcare systems can provide remote patient monitoring and chronic disease management by allowing patients to deliver healthcare information to practitioners and receive have automated supervision. mHealth also can be used for the direct provision of care via mobile telemedicine services.
Wearable Devices. The wearable device trend has been receiving significant attention recently with the introduction of devices like Fitbit’s activity monitor, Samsung’s Smart Watch and Google’s optical head-mounted display unit Google Glass. Many analysts also see the sizable potential for wearable devices in healthcare. A report last year from ABI Research estimated that by 2017, one in five wearable devices will be used in the medical field, and that the number of devices will grow at an annual rate of 50%.
From clothing that can monitor a patient's vital signs to other wearable sensors that monitor a range of statistics, including blood glucose, sleep patterns, posture and even breaths taken per minute, eHealth devices facilitate patient engagement and patient provider interaction — two major challenges in a traditional healthcare model. This model also puts more control in the hands of patients, giving them more ownership of their health and the ability to receive better information.
The market for M2M in healthcare is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Now is the time for M2M players — both small and large — to lay the groundwork needed to support this infrastructure of connected devices and position themselves to be a part of this new wave of innovation.