Even if you are not familiar with the phrase “Digital Health”, there’s a good chance you have already experienced it. If you’ve ever used a Fitbit or downloaded a fitness tracker on your phone, you’ve already immersed yourself in Digital Health.
Digital Health is the product of traditional healthcare practices and emerging technology, such as computers, mobile devices, and wearable technology, all bound together through the Internet of Things. The premise is to use this new technology to aid in the prevention of illness and injury, predict human performance, manage patient care and care giver performance, diagnose illnesses and injury, and prevent disease.
But how did we get to this point? When did “health” make the leap to “Digital Health”? Think back to a time before FitBits and Apple Watches, when the world was a lot less connected and technology had yet to take root in a conservative industry like Healthcare.
Looking back to when our parents were young, prevention meant seeing the doctor once a year and taking a multi-vitamin. Human performance prediction was a growth chart based on human population averages. Management of patient care went as far as how much could fit in a manila folder stuffed in a file cabinet. Caregiver performance was not monitored nor questioned. An illness or injury diagnosis required a doctor visit and trust that the doctor knew all. Of course, access to doctors, knowledgeable or not, may not have been possible for rural patients. Finally, the prevention of disease was limited to the vaccinations we were required to receive.
You may argue that one of the biggest impacts on healthcare in world history is the access to data, with the Internet being the enabler. The more data we have access to, the more we are able to learn from each other, the faster we are able to advance the services we can provide.
Computers, internet technology, and access to data has provided a foundation for advancements in healthcare that rival the invention of penicillin. The medical record file vault has been replaced by databases accessible via a computer and in some cases by the patient in their own home. Patients and caregivers can do internet research for possible diagnosis based on symptoms and options for prevention and remediation.
Along with the Internet, advancements in low-cost sensors, microelectronics, wireless, and mobile technology have created a consumer market for wearable technology. With advancements in wearable technology accuracy we find more and more opportunities to leverage the technology in healthcare, creating the basis for Digital Health.
We at Bridgera, being an internet of things company, like to summarize Digital Health solutions as the Internet of Things meets healthcare.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways IoT is operating in healthcare today.
The ability to remotely track and monitor patients’ vital sign data is something that would’ve sounded like science-fiction only a few decades ago. Thanks to IoT, doctors and nurses are now able to keep tabs on glucose levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, all while using wireless devices and sensors. These devices are able to transmit data from a patient at home to medical staff in a hospital, and all in the blink of an eye. For people living in rural areas, this development is incredibly helpful.
Anyone can see the difference between a hospital from the 1980’s and the modern hospitals of today. But there’s one massive difference that isn’t visible to the naked eye: data. Every hospital in the country is a hub of communication, except it’s not humans who are doing the talking. IoT has allowed hospitals to become exponentially more efficient over the course of mere decades. Treatments can now be tracked and logged with minimal effort. Some applications harness the power of wearable smart devices to track patient visits and access electronic medical records. IoT sensors are also able to monitor patients’ locations and hospital equipment in real-time (this is called “location-as-a-service”). Even mundane containers like pill bottles now have sensors in the caps that will remind patients when to take their medicine!
IoT has also invigorated the home care market and improved the quality of life for those with disabilities. Years ago, people who were confined to their home due to an illness would have to visit their doctor for even the most minor of tests. Thanks to IoT, it’s now possible to collect biometric information remotely without ever forcing the patient out of their home. There are also addiction-preventing applications that can help those with a history of drug abuse, smart thermometers, and monitoring systems that allow for ECG (electrocardiogram) testing to be done from home instead of a clinic.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the advances of IoT and digital health, it’s that most of the “What if?” questions are becoming “When?” questions. For years, doctors had to send results to laboratories and wait for weeks (or months) for test results. Now, with the help of IoT-enabled technology, doctors are able to analyze test results from the patient’s bedside.
But why not take it a step further? What if you lived in a house that was IoT-equipped and could measure (and prevent) health hazards? What if you never had to leave your house for a doctor’s appointment, since the doctor could review your medical records remotely?
If there’s one thing we all know about technology, it’s that it moves quickly. Many of the applications we listed in the last segment already seem like futuristic solutions to ancient problems, but IoT continues to push the envelope in Digital Health. Bridgera is proud to be at the forefront of this revolution, so stay tuned for more updates as we continue to innovate and forge new paths into the future.
Bridgera IoT is an IoT Platform that is positioned to quickly becoming IoT Software enabling enterprise IoT Systems, including systems enabling Digital Health. Contact us today and let us know what you think.
About the Author: Jordan Eller is the Digital Marketing Lead at Bridgera, LLC in Raleigh, NC. His mission is to make the Internet of Things accessible and easy to understand for everyone with a curious mind.