Healthcare costs continue to climb around the globe. The advent of the internet of things has the potential to revolutionize the traditional paper-based healthcare treatment through the access of real-time patient data and remote patient monitoring. Connected healthcare, particularly for chronic sufferers, enables improved patient care and encourages patient self-management while at the same time lowering costs.
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Consequently, the global IoT market in healthcare was valued at $60.4 billion in 2014, and is estimated to more than double and reach $136.8 billion by 2021.
New entrants disrupting the e-healthcare space
Numerous blue chips have been trying to defend the e-health market for many years. IoT startups are now increasingly entering the space by disruptively launching new applications and leveraging connected sensors to better diagnose, monitor and manage patients and treatment. As of March 2016, research firm CB Insights identified 64 IoT startups specialized in patient monitoring, clinical efficiency, biometrics and several other disciplines. While this is obviously just a snapshot, the map as such is likely to expand quickly. The reason for this rapid expansion in the near future is a result of the increasing penetration of sensors, smartphones and wearable devices, easy and cheap internet access, and an increasing worldwide focus on preventive medicine.
Understanding patient needs and user behavior
The perception that very few, if any at all, young people want to leverage e-health is nothing but a myth. According to PWC, 1.7 billion people are expected to download mobile health apps by 2017. Eighty percent of healthcare consumers in the U.S. would take advantage of digital services that help them manage their health, and nearly 90% of 18-24 year olds in the U.S. said that they would engage in health activities through social media.
Similarly, McKinsey concluded that more than 75% of all patients expect to use digital services in the future. More than 70% of patients over 50 years of age in the UK and Germany want to use digital health services; in Singapore, that number is even higher.
However, organizations aiming to capture market share and succeed in the digital arena must overcome the following four obstacles which could impede market growth:
- Regulatory environment: Healthcare tends to be among the most regulated industries, with numerous compliance and privacy requirements that need to be met. Depending on jurisdiction, there might be a need for country-specific product accreditation or certification.
- Stakeholder management: Successfully managing the myriad of stakeholders, including policymakers, providers, payers, professional associations, etc., and understanding their respective agendas is key.
- Security concerns: Since devices are potentially vulnerable, they must have tight security protocols embedded, just as other IT infrastructure is typically protected through firewalls, virus scanners and so on. Additionally, encryption should be used at all times — whenever data is being transmitted (in motion), processed (in use) or stored (at rest).
- Missing standards: Interoperability and seamless integration through APIs are critical prerequisites when it comes to interacting with other IoT systems or interfacing workflow-based legacy systems, which are complex and often rigid.
Mastering the journey
Besides overcoming these obstacles, organizations need to understand what patients really want and should categorize their services according to basic criteria such as the estimated market potential, willingness to pay and value created through the service.
Lastly, to become digital champions, just like companies in other sectors, e-health businesses should constantly add new services to build long-lasting relationships and create value — either by incrementally improving existing healthcare systems or by opting for radical new ways of delivering and monitoring care. Only when they are able to fundamentally improve some aspect of healthcare delivery through a differentiated offering will companies have a sustainable “right to play.”
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