Internet of Things will drive investment in healthcare sector in 2017

New reports outline importance of investment in WiFi and the Internet of Things to drive improvements in the healthcare sector

Technology is revolutionising healthcare across the board, but the biggest visible changes are taking place at the point of provision. As we prepare to enter 2017, this article explores the significant impact the Internet of Things will have on investment in the sector over the next 12 months

Purple is predicting increased interest in the Internet of Things during 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) will be key to the future of healthcare technology, and the delivery of world-class services, moving forward, according to industry insiders.

More-efficient hospitals and doctors can only mean a quicker diagnosis for patients, allowing their stay to be a shorter one

Schneider Electric has recently released its full IoT 2020 Business Report, which provides insight and guidance for health trusts looking to build smarter futures.

It claims the IoT will trigger a new wave of digital transformation, fuelling a more-mobile and digitally-enabled workforce. It will also enable organisations to translate previously-untapped data into insights that will drive future care pathways and investment decisions. And it will help to address growing concerns over cyber security.

“IoT will function as a source of innovation, business model disruption, and economic growth,” the report states.

“Just as the Industrial Revolution, birth of the Internet, and mobile revolution have driven advancement, innovation, and prosperity; so will the IoT.”

Further evidence from research carried out by Purple shows that 90% of healthcare IT departments are prepared to make the changes needed to implement the IoT.

It reveals that 78% of hospitals are already enabling healthcare professionals to use personal WiFi devices at the point of care.

And 31% of hospitals plan to upgrade their WiFi networks every three years, according to the results.

Just as the Industrial Revolution, birth of the Internet, and mobile revolution have driven advancement, innovation, and prosperity; so will the IoT

This approach is supported by a £1billion Government fund which aims to provide free WiFi in all NHS buildings by 2020.

Gavin Wheeldon, chief executive of Purple said: “Technology is revolutionising healthcare across the board, but the biggest visible changes are taking place at the point of provision.

“Patients are now in more control of their treatment regimes than ever before and the relationships they have with their doctors are also evolving.

“The growth of the Internet of Things shows that the need for strong, secure WiFi networks in medical settings is more crucial than ever, both for the doctors and patients who are utilising wearable devices, tablets and phones.”

The WiFi Alliance has reported that machine-to-machine (M2M) connections in the connected health consumer segment are forecasted to grow by more than eight times (54% CAGR) between 2014-2019.

WiFi, it argues, will play a dominant role in making the digital health vision a reality.

Benefits include reduced cable clutter, increased patient comfort through smaller wearable devices, and uninterrupted monitoring outside of hospitals.

For example, an abnormal reading from a heart monitor could send an alarm to a patient’s doctor warning of the need for further care and attention.

The growth of the Internet of Things shows that the need for strong, secure WiFi networks in medical settings is more crucial than ever

A Forrester Consulting survey reported that 70% of their respondents cited WiFi as the most-important technology for supporting the growth of healthcare IoT.

The survey asked a number of industries about smart interconnected devices and how they were used to get more visibility into the identification, location, and condition of products, assets, transactions, or people to drive more-effective and timely business decisions or to improve customer interactions.

Within the healthcare sector it revealed that 92% of those surveyed either had an IoT plan in place or were certainly implementing in the next year to five years. A clear indication, it can be argued, that healthcare is one business model that has truly grasped the importance of new technology.

In turn, it also identified the areas in which these companies believed IoT could be used to benefit the healthcare provider.

The findings showed that 46% said they used it for tracking a person’s status or condition; 54% used it for security and surveillance; and 60% utilised IoT for checking their inventory levels.

“With finances crucial within most healthcare systems, any areas where efficiency can be maximised, and costs cut, can only be seen as a good thing,” said Wheeldon.

One key influence within the healthcare market can be seen in keeping track of patient appointments.

“NHS England is already using new technology to help cut the number of missed GP and outpatient appointments,” said Wheeldon.

With finances crucial within most healthcare systems, any areas where efficiency can be maximised, and costs cut, can only be seen as a good thing

“Figures have suggested that more than 12 million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing in excess of £162m a year. A further 6.9 million outpatient hospital appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing an average of £108 per appointment. Simple text reminders, online booking systems, and Skype calls with a doctor are already in place in counties around the UK.

“Back on hospital wards the emergence of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) for both clinicians and patients fits neatly into the improvement of patient care and clinical diagnosis and treatment.

“If doctors are able to treat patients successfully by taking their own mobile devices onto the wards and using them to make a diagnosis and improve their learning, it can only be a positive development.”

But he added: “With the introduction of new technology over the coming years security will need to be addressed.

“WiFi systems will need to be tightly controlled so patients and staff are safe in the knowledge that no-one can infiltrate confidential information.

“That said, the benefits of technology can only be seen as a good thing.

The perfect prescription for a better-run healthcare system? It’s certainly a good start

“More-efficient hospitals and doctors can only mean a quicker diagnosis for patients, allowing their stay to be a shorter one.

“The average hospital stay in the UK is six days. The introduction of the new technology could decrease this stay, release a much-needed bed, and, in turn, give the patient something to do when they get bored.

“The perfect prescription for a better-run healthcare system? It’s certainly a good start.”

To read the Schneider Electric report in full, click here.

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