Technological revolution of connected care

How wearables, personalised devices and smart implants are enhancing patient health

Is connected care the future?

In this article, Manish Tandon, executive vice president of healthcare, insurance and life sciences at Infosys, explores how wearables, personalised medical devices and smart implants are becoming integral to better patient health and are helping hospital run more efficiently

Wearables and personalised medicine make up a small portion of the vast universe of the health and life sciences industries undergoing a major technological haul

Consider this: Mark, a diabetic, experiences hypoglycemic symptoms during a presentation at his office. He checks the biometric wearable device on his arm to see the parameters. The dial glows yellow and shows 69mg/dL. He tries to ignore it and continues with the presentation for another 15 minutes, but the device starts beeping, and another look at it shows that it has dipped further to 60mg/dL. He stops his presentation, and in three minutes, without any request for help, paramedics are his office with the medications that will help him recover.

How did this happen? The wearable device not only monitors parameters and informs the wearer about it, but also shares the information with medical facilities in their vicinity. The medical facility also receives all other relevant information about the patient, synced through the cloud, so it has a complete patient health profile. The physicians there carry out a genetic profiling, which takes less than an hour and provides a comprehensive picture about factors like other health conditions with which a new diabetes drugs can conflict.

The physicians share this information through an Electronic Health Record (EHR) with a renowned pharmaceutical company that then develops customised medicines for Mark, medicines that will target his needs more accurately than generic drugs can. A 10-minute consultation with Mark reveals that the reason for this hypoglycemic episode was that he had forgotten to take his medicine on time.

The future is replete with opportunities for bionics, robotics, smart implants, nano-medicines, non-invasive surgeries, laboratory-on-chip, nano-sensors, tele-monitoring, regenerative medicine and gamification – the list goes on

The physician also requests the pharmaceutical company to insert digestible microchips into the tablets that will inform the medical facility whether Mark is taking his medicines, and if he doesn't, will allow them to inform him through his wearable device or even over a call. This is ‘connected care’ in action in the near future.

Roadmap to connected care

This scenario gives a very-brief glimpse into the role connected care will play in a patient-centric ecosystem to better people’s health and wellbeing, made possible through the efforts of both the healthcare and life sciences industries. And, what's more, with the speed at which technology is pervading the two industries, this will be just one of many digitally-enabled scenarios that will be playing out soon.

Wearables and personalised medicine make up a small portion of the vast universe of the health and life sciences industries undergoing a major technological haul.

What does the future look like for these industries? It is replete with opportunities for bionics, robotics, smart implants, nano-medicines, non-invasive surgeries, laboratory-on-chip, nano-sensors, tele-monitoring, regenerative medicine and gamification – the list goes on.

The innovations will transform the way treatments and therapies are delivered, enable remote monitoring for all, and make health and fitness tracking mandatory for better population health management

The common undercurrent that travels through each of these technological innovations – connected care, the key principle of which is to connect patients, healthcare providers, medical device and pharmaceutical companies and payers to develop and deliver all the elements necessary to provide the right healthcare to every patient that needs it.

The innovations will transform the way treatments and therapies are delivered, enable remote monitoring for all, and make health and fitness tracking mandatory for better population health management. And nothing short of a technological and digital revolution will make this possible.

Helping build the connected ecosystem

But it’s not enough that technology just run its course through these industries. We need to develop capabilities and strategies to leverage it and make the most of all that it has to offer. We also have to cultivate the insights that can drive decisions on which technological advancement we should nurture and further through clinical trials and experiments. If not, the full potential of the advancements will not be realised.

For instance, research by PwC reveals that while over 80% of consumers believe that wearables can make aspects about healthcare easier and effective, not many have adopted it. The same study shows that the $2.8 trillion healthcare system in the US will be able to make the most of this segment only if pharmaceutical and life science companies are able to communicate benefits about wearables and convince consumers about the effectiveness.

We also need to understand the impact that digital technologies is having on the industries. For starters, it is shifting control from the hands of the providers – pharmaceutical and medical device companies and physicians – to that of the consumers, in this case patients. Conversations among them are no longer initiated and moderated by the providers. Instead, it is being done by the consumers. They start online communities and other platforms where patients can discuss and share their experiences with new-age medical devices and therapies. This creates a wealth of data that can generate valuable insights on drug usefulness and safety that players in both industries can leverage for delivering better solutions.

While it is important to adopt the right technology, it is equally essential to build an ecosystem that can enable a connection among all these elements

Next, it will fast track process efficiency. When the right analytics tools are paired with the right sensors and technology, the generated data is converted quickly and effectively into bits of information that different departments can use. For instance, in the case of Mark, the sensors in the wearables shared data in real-time that was interpreted as information that needed immediate attention, and was then communicated to the emergency department of the medical facility which was able to mobilise a team with the right medical help.

While it is important to adopt the right technology, it is equally essential to build an ecosystem that can enable a connection among all these elements. With a strong infrastructure, this connected care approach will take root and have the foundation on which physicians, pharmaceutical and medical companies, and payers can connect and leverage the data the devices generate and collect.