The Internet of Things: Fixing the Future of Health Care

A perspective on how IoT-based technologies could improve health care in the United Kingdom—both for citizens and for its National Health Service.
By Graeme Parton
Jul 12, 2016

Of all the services available to people in the United Kingdom, health care is perhaps the most crucial. Most will start relying on it from birth, before revisiting with varying frequency throughout life. Despite its importance, however, there are serious and ongoing challenges to overcome.

The pressures of population growth, extending life expectancies and ongoing financial constraints have undoubtedly stretched the country's National Health Service (NHS) in recent years, posing a concerning risk to the levels of care on offer. This is why the focus has shifted to innovation and change—a solution is needed. Enter the Internet of Things.

Connected technologies—more specifically, the IoT—are poised to revolutionize the sector, changing how care is given and enhancing the way in which hospitals, surgeries and nursing homes across the country operate. It seems inevitable that the results will be huge, and although it may not be obvious, the transition is already under way.

A Connectivity Revolution
The IoT is affecting the world right now, whether people realize it or not. Smart metering has made its way into many workplaces and homes, the popularity of connected watches is increasing steadily and WiFi-enabled cars are on their way to becoming the standard. The trend is similar in health care, with medical personnel already relying on connected equipment like fitness trackers to keep track of physical recoveries and motion sensors to monitor trips and falls. The best really is yet to come, though.

As we move forward, the adoption of these types of technologies will only increase as the necessary developments play out and the true potential is realized. That potential includes everything from increased productivity and lower running costs to more vacant beds and reduced recovery times.

Moving Care to the Home
At present, the only place to receive hospital-level care is in a hospital, but that won't always be the case. With the help of the IoT, it will soon be normal for patients to be treated from the most comfortable place they know: their home.

The introduction of countless sensors and connected devices will allow doctors to keep much closer control of their patients' care without actually having to be in the same room. Temperature and humidity sensors, for example, will ensure that environments are comfortable and conducive to recovery without the need for human attention. Wearables will send valuable vital-signs data that can be acted upon when necessary, and medicines can be dispensed automatically, with alerts issued if the correct dosage is not consumed at the proper time.

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