The convergence of Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data analytics is driving accelerated adoption of digital technology in healthcare sector, as increasing penetration of wearable gadgets, consumers’ proactive approach towards health, and vast data generation helps enterprises to study and explore new market opportunities. Savvy new players are moving fast to capitalise on the change making healthcare space, a lucrative opportunity for digital offerings to change the dynamics.
Companies are finding new ways to supply smart gadgets, new mobile apps and other related services to the new-age digital natives. With the rising consumer awareness, wearable gadgets have already become a hot trend and part of people’s daily lives for things like monitoring vitals—heart rate, pulse, respiratory rates, and assessing fitness. The access to Internet over these devices has made a new market segment available by creating a demand for innovation and creating customised offerings.
IoT and Big Data analytics have the power to transform the healthcare industry by analysing data generated from consumers’ interaction with their devices and gadgets. Ensuring proper utilisation of data through the use of Big Data analytics to make sense out of it would in turn drive healthcare business decisions for reducing costs, increasing efficiency, improving access to care and raising quality of care.
IoT has a broad range of applications from managing lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc, to preventing diseases that can cause tumultuous effects. Its potential is already playing out in:
* Remote monitoring of health
* Reducing downtime for healthcare devices
* Increasing efficient utilisation of medical equipment
* Outpatient and in-patient monitoring across admission and discharge process
* Critical care supported by analytics, and
* Using smart sensors
On the other hand, data-driven healthcare outcomes for individual consumers mean that symptoms and warning signs can be picked up early enough to ensure timely intervention and making treatment options available in plenty to the patients without inflicting huge financial loss—fairly important in an era of rising disease burden and increasing lifestyle diseases.
Technology has changed the dynamics of doctor-patient interactions. Patients today can schedule an appointment through an app, use telemedicine to reach out to a doctor for a specialist opinion remotely, share radiological images and diagnosis reports with an approved consultant at low cost, send data to the consultant through integrated point of care devices enabling timely interventions, and more. While, for the clinicians it has become easier to access and carry the patients’ medical records anywhere with them on a mobile app, report and review ECGs, and stay connected with their patients enabling them to deliver continued quality care.
The Internet of Things, from being a ‘futuristic technology’ a few years ago, has now infiltrated and influenced businesses and people from all walks of life with the emergence of new sect of consumers identifying themselves as ‘digital natives’.
The smart wearables, such as watches, goggles, clothes, fitness and healthcare accessories, etc, are now widely in use. To make these devices unobtrusive, personalised attributes are being considered while designing these products with the latest in line being integration with clothes. This trend will eventually go beyond just being a “fashion statement” to becoming a more mainstream concrete personalised data subset with capability of value realisation if put thorough series of analytics.
This convergence of wearables, IoT and Big Data analytics has the ability to enable a wide application across sports, fitness, fashion and healthcare segments, which would eventually lead to blurring the lines between these markets and ultimately manifest into a multifaceted, multipurpose wearable device or product.
For healthcare, the next five years will be critical for integrating data from legacy systems and new generation IoT’s devices into a connected platform enhancing functionality of devices, reducing the manpower burden, and minimising errors to deliver a seamless experience to clinicians and patients in everyday practice.
Companies with strategies that combine the right incentives, people, workflows, and data will emerge as leaders. The examples mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg, as there are many more applications that have been revolutionising the healthcare industry and will bring in the next digital wave.
Being susceptible to change is the key for old players in this sector as more and more new entrants will capitalise on this opportunity. Amalgamation of wearables, IoT and Big Data is imperative and will be the future for both personalised and enterprise wide trends.
The writer is director—Digital, PwC India