Digital Systems Blog

8 Ways IoT Can Help Solve Real-World Problems in Healthcare

IoT in HealthcareIoT is top of mind in every industry today, and healthcare is no exception.  The Global IoT Healthcare market is expected to grow from $41.22 billion in 2017 to reach $405.65 billion by 2026 according to  Additionally, the findings of a global IoT survey of over 3,000 business and IT professionals, ‘The Internet of Things: Today and Tomorrow’, indicates 60% of healthcare organizations globally have adopted IoT devices within their organization. It is clear that the healthcare industry is set to leverage the power of IoT.

Let’s take a look at some of the everyday problems IoT can help solve in Healthcare. Some use smart lighting as the enabling infrastructure. 

Finding Locations within Large Medical Facilities

Healthcare campuses are often massive and can be difficult to navigate especially when visitors are already anxious about an impending medical appointment or locating the room of a sick relative or friend. If visitors do not have direction every 30 feet while traveling through a facility, they will likely stop and ask for directions, interrupting staff and decreasing their productivity. 

Wayfinding applications are leveraging IoT to assist those navigating large facilities. When visitors enter the medical facility, a mobile app of the facility displays the best route to get to the department or room on the visitor’s smartphone.  A smart lighting system with integrated sensors in luminaires creates the enabling infrastructure for these digital wayfinding applications.

Improving Patient Outcomes

Smart lighting applications are helping hospitals and medical facilities promote health and well-being by creating the right light at the right time for patients. Biological rhythms that repeat approximately every 24 hours are called circadian rhythms and light is the main stimulus that helps the circadian clock keep a synchronized rhythm with nature’s 24-hour day. Without this synchronization, research has shown that we may experience long-term decrements in physiological function, neurobehavioral performance and sleep, and are put at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

Human-centric lighting uses LED technology and intelligent lighting control systems to match light characteristics that map to natural human circadian rhythms. In a patient setting, these systems aim to address the psychological and physiological issues that are created by disruptions to our circadian clock. For example, patients who have dementia often experience a shifted day-night rhythm. A light prescription tailored to increase circadian stimulation during the day can be used to enhance the quality of life in those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias (ADRD) patients. 

Increasing Staff Productivity

Staff caring for patients require different light levels for different tasks. For example, inserting a catheter, taking an X-ray and reviewing test results on a laptop all have different lighting requirements.  A flexible smart lighting solution can meet the demands of all of these specific tasks. 

Monitoring Medical Equipment Usage

IoT is being utilized to keep better track of valuable assets in hospitals.  Equipment and devices including ultrasounds machines, ECG machines, beds and wheelchairs are tagged with IoT sensors so that they can be located easily. This allows staff to spend less time searching for supplies and more time caring for patients.  For example, by tagging hospital beds in the emergency room with IoT sensors, hospitals are able to identify when beds are free enabling a decrease in emergency room wait times. 

Confirming the Integrity of Laboratory Samples

It is well known that many hospitals are using sensors to monitor temperature and lighting to improve the comfort of patients and productivity of staff.  There is another less known area where monitoring temperature and light is critical, and that’s with medical laboratory specimens.  Some samples such as bilirubin and carotene are light-sensitive and special care must be taken for accurate results. Samples can be tagged with sensors that monitor temperature and light exposure alerting staff if test samples are compromised.

Monitoring Patients at Home or in Long-Term Care Facilities

The IoT is fundamental to home health monitoring. In this application, a patient’s vital health data is monitored via wearable technology with embedded sensors that track their conditions. Wearables such as blood pressure monitors, glucometers, pulse detectors, and personal emergency response systems automatically detect and report emergencies allowing patients to stay at home longer and reducing the possibility of re-admissions.  

A similar IoT application is helping improve care in long-term facilities. Wearable patient monitors with embedded sensors monitor the elderly and Alzheimer patients. An alarm will trigger when a patient has fallen or has not moved for an extended period. 

Enhancing Medication Adherence

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that about half of patients that have chronic disease don’t take their medications as prescribed.  Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20% of the 3.8 billion prescriptions written every year in the U.S. are never filled.

IoT-enabled “smart pill boxes” and packaging aims to address these adherence issues by enabling health professionals and families to keep track of a patient’s medicine schedule and intake.  These systems can include a prescription vial cap that connects to a mobile cloud-based application that reminds patients to take their medication. When dispensing the prescription, pharmacists program the system so that the medication container alarm sounds at the time the patient is scheduled to take their medication dose.  If the cap isn’t removed at the time the alarm sounds, that is noted, and the doctor is notified.

Helping Wounds Heal

Smart bandages designed to actively monitor the condition of chronic wounds and deliver appropriate drug treatments are being used to improve the chances of healing.  The dressings contain sensors that monitor the conditions of the wound such as temperature and PH level, a microprocessor to interpret sensor input that triggers drug delivery to promote healing and a drug carrier.  

If changes are detected in the wound’s status, the system can diagnose the problem and dispense the treatment that has been pre-programmed by a doctor to be administered if certain conditions are discovered. Smart bandages hold promise in helping ward off persistent infections which often result from chronic wounds associated with burns, diabetes, and other medical conditions.

To learn more about smart lighting is enabling IoT applications, download the ebook below.

Connected Lighting Meets IoT


Topics: Connected Lighting & IoT, Trends, Smart Building App