One of the biggest beneficiaries of our connected digital world is smart healthcare. Globally the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market has increased from $41bn in 2017 to a predicted $158bn in 2022. Smart healthcare is now everywhere, from booking GP appointments online to centralised patient data records and tracking of expensive medical equipment. Doctors surgeries, hospitals and healthcare organisations are now adapting to the amazing opportunities which interconnected healthcare IT systems can bring. People are also adapting to smart healthcare by using health trackers on their watches, smartphone apps to monitor their own health conditions and motion sensors to keep them safe at home whilst providing independence.
More connectivity means increased access to data which inevitably leads to more efficient and better care for patients.
Covid-19 has played a huge part in how patients receive medical care and there has been a huge increase in Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and independent living applications, not only to help keep both vulnerable people and patients safe, but also to reduce the strain on healthcare organisation resources.
What is RPM technology?
RPM technologies are used to securely transmit real time health information between patients and healthcare professionals. It is typically used when patients have a chronic illness which needs to be continuously monitored, or when patients have been released from hospital and require follow up observation. According to the NHS, 15 million people in England have long term conditions, accounting for half of GP appointments and 70 per cent of acute and primary care budgets, so technology like this could revolutionise the healthcare sector.
Tablets, wearables and sensors, monitor and continuously transmit data back to a hub, where it can be interpreted and acted upon. Examples of this include: glucose monitors which alert diabetes patients to take insulin; Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) monitors which help patients with sleep apnea to improve their sleep quality and can alert doctors to potential respiratory emergencies; and digital blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters to monitor heart activity in cardiac patients.
Cellular connectivity provides a constant secure data flow
RPM applications provide healthcare organisations with critical medical data and as a result they need to ensure a continuous and reliable transfer of data. Using cellular connectivity means that solution providers and device manufacturers don’t need to rely on the patient having a reliable WiFI connection, something which often isn’t available especially with older patients, in order to transmit data. By using a roaming SIM or eSIM solution, any coverage issues are mitigated as the device will find the strongest signal. This allows solution providers and device manufacturers to rapidly deploy to market, simplifying logistics and reducing manufacturing costs.
Each device works in a slightly different way depending on the levels of data being transferred and the bandwidth required. With cellular connectivity, 4G and more recently LTE-M solutions provide a resilient ‘Always-On’ connectivity. Any data transferred can be protected with private APNs and VPN overlays and routed securely back to the approved data centre. This is a far more secure solution than relying on the patient’s home WiFi or fixed line.
Technology can enable independent living
Another strand of healthcare which is being revolutionised by the IoMT is independent living. By this we mean the way in which we enable older and more vulnerable people to remain at home for longer despite having conditions like dementia, which 20 years ago might have meant that they needed to live in a care home.
In the UK there are over ten million people who currently need some sort of care, which will only increase given our ageing population. This is a huge burden for the NHS and private care providers to shoulder, but with the help of cellular connectivity, applications to support independent living are making a difference in supporting the patient, their carers and their loved ones.
Sensors raise alerts when patterns of behaviour change
One example of this is wearable devices and sensors in the home which monitor people’s patterns of movement and their habitual behaviours, such as how often they switch on the kettle or use the bathroom. Sensors around the home that monitor this behaviour connect to a central hub, which then communicates over cellular back to a centralised monitoring centre over IP. The devices and sensors learn the normal patterns for each individual, and are then able to issue alerts to healthcare providers to visit or contact patients, if there are any significant deviations to these patterns, due to a fall or some other medical emergency.
As the wearable devices and sensors are always connected to the main hub in the home, the user can trigger an alarm or make a voice call to a few pre-set emergency numbers for assistance. This provides a tremendous level of security and peace of mind for people (and their loved ones) who want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, but are vulnerable for whatever reason.
How do connected applications improve patient outcomes?
Both types of remote care have a number of benefits for patients. Devices and sensors are small, unobtrusive, rapidly deployed and work out-of-the-box, meaning that patients can be connected straight away from the comfort of their own homes. Data transferred from the hub is secured through private data networks, so only authorised users can monitor and access patient data, to then make quick informed decisions for better patient healthcare and welfare.
There are also many benefits for healthcare providers using connected technologies. Instead of waiting for patients to present as emergency cases or with deteriorating symptoms, RPM and independent living applications alert them to patterns of declining health, changes in their medical data or life-threatening situations which can be responded to immediately. Over the long term this means fewer severe cases requiring hospital stays, fewer in person clinic appointments for stable patients, and the ability to adapt a person’s living conditions to suit their needs.
As the technology progresses the affordability per SKU also improves, the scalability increases and the data captured becomes increasingly sophisticated, all of which further benefits the healthcare providers.
Sensitive data requires robust solutions
Solution providers and device manufacturers within the healthcare industry have to think very carefully when choosing which connectivity partner is going to offer the most flexible, secure and robust solution for their products. At Wireless Logic, data security is of paramount importance. We encrypt all data through private network infrastructure with private APNs and VPN solutions, and our ISO27001 certification provides added peace of mind.
We understand the importance of easy set up for wearables, devices and sensors whatever their application. Our solutions allow for devices to be simply taken out of the box and switched on, connectivity is automated, requiring no complicated set up or fixed line connection. Data is transmitted via un-steered roaming SIM or eSIM for secure ‘Always-On’ 4G, LTE Cat-1 BIS and LTE-M connectivity. The device roll out is fully scalable to any number of deployments, and solutions providers have complete visibility and management of these assets via our SIMPro platform.
Our IoT experts have tailored solutions to fit any healthcare application, to find out how we can help, contact us to discuss.