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Already widely used in manufacturing and infrastructure management, the Internet of Things (IoT) is evolving quickly into health IT, healthcare and hospital operations.
Indeed, IoT in its radio frequency identification incarnations has taken root in healthcare, tracking movement, storage and administration of medications, as well as for real-time location systems to monitor physician and nurse workflow processes.
But one of the biggest potential benefits of IoT in healthcare may be a IoT strategy that's already being employed in the retail industry: improving the customer experience. In this case, the customer is the patient.
In a recent tweet chat using the hashtag #chatHIT -- hosted by SearchHealthIT and informally moderated by Rasu Shrestha, M.D., chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center -- health IT experts and SearchHealthIT staffers bandied about ideas for IoT in improving the patient experience.
One such notion is automated kiosks that would quickly handle the chore of patient check-ins and start the process of guiding them through the hospital. Shrestha liked this idea for improving the patient experience and broadened it.
Bill Bunting, marketing executive at EMC and self-described "black sheep of health IT," concurred. Bunting argued that all mobile devices are essentially becoming part of IoT.
Meanwhile, Bernadatte Keefe, M.D., a health IT social media expert, floated a series of use cases for IoT technology in both patient satisfaction and delivering care. In fact, mobile devices are being widely used at the bedside and for remote patient monitoring.
Health IT advocates, such as Bunting and Keefe, tend to be passionate about their ideas. And medical IoT is no exception.
But beyond their passion for the subject, some of the tweet chat participants stressed that IoT in healthcare won't be effective without thoughtful design, analytics and other considerations that allow connected devices to work symbiotically within the larger health IT ecosystem. One participant, healthcare workflow blogger Charles Webster, M.D., commented on the usefulness of IoT in understanding patient-staff interaction and appended a graphic to one of his tweets showing analytics applied to patient tracking.
A1: IoT can help ptnts be more engaged in hlth & trtmnt; Can connect patient's hlthcare team & provide more meaningful data to docs #chatHIT— Christine Newman (@newman_ca) July 23, 2015
Bunting and others, while advocates of IoT in healthcare, also expressed some caution -- and patience -- about the pace of the technology's acceptance and refinement in health IT.
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