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IoT is beginning to play a significant role in a broad range of healthcare applications. One of the quickly emerging areas is telehealth systems that deliver care to people in remote locations. This technology, also known as remote patient monitoring (RPM), provides a wirelessly connected software to securely capture patient health data. As a result of this technology, patients are less likely to develop complications, and acute complications can be diagnosed earlier.
Technology advances: Enabling healthcare IoT
Healthcare IoT relies on several enabling technologies. To date, existing remote patient monitoring technology has been separated into two arenas — devices (hardware) and the applications (software) — with little concern for, or power over, the networks that send and receive the monitoring records, tests and updates. Until now, RPM tools have used what is available or what they are tied to.
This means that most RPM devices and software are faced with two problems which contribute to an inability to scale successfully:
- They often fall behind the latest technology available because they are tied to the devices for which they were designed rather than new devices and technology; and
- Many patients who live in secluded areas are perfect candidates for RPM success, as it alleviates their burden of coming into the hospital for ongoing tests. However, living in remote areas often means patients cannot connect to the required network.
Advances in wireless technology: The advent of 5G
Specifically as it relates to IoT enablement of devices, wireless has alleviated some of the problems associated with monitoring patients that live in remote areas. Wireless networking removes the physical limitations on networking imposed by traditional wired technologies like Ethernet and USB.
As wireless networking continues to improve with the advent of 5G, we’ll see more patients being served. In the U.S., Verizon is aggressively predicting rollout this year, and AT&T expects to get there before year end.
It’s the fifth-generation of mobile internet connectivity and promises much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections. It’s all about making better use of the radio spectrum and enabling far more devices to access the mobile internet at the same time.
This underscores the need for a telehealth technology that can deliver long-term clinical components and monitor vital signs to the widest range of locations, from urban to remote, with the ability to economically scale to any size patient population.
We’ll continue to see more uses cases emerge in this healthcare IoT space.
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