Imagine a time in the near future where a diabetic can have their blood sugar levels assessed by a doctor halfway across the world or have their insulin levels changed automatically in response to what they eat and be able to receive medical advice without leaving the comfort of their home. This kind of convenience is not too far away. The Internet of Things (“IoT”) is making deep inroads into healthcare making chronic illnesses more manageable and medical advice more accessible to the average person.
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Revolutionising everyday healthcare
The IoT is already transforming the way we live our lives – a report by Verizon estimated that 73% of executives are either researching or currently deploying IoT technology. It is highly likely that you or someone you know are currently wearing some form of technology that tracks part of your personal health, habits or routine. With fitness trackers including apps on smartphones increasing in popularity and use there is an unprecedented amount of data being stored waiting to be utilised. The amount of information will only increase as a report from Tractica suggests that approximately 430 million IoT devices will be shipped out each year by 2022.
The IoT is poised to have a huge transformative effect on the healthcare industry, partially driven by technological advancement and partly by economic necessity. Healthcare expenses have been rising steadily over the last decade and according to a report by McKinsey, healthcare costs in the U.S. alone represent almost 20% of its GDP. To date, fitness trackers have largely been utilised for activity based data accumulation but is moving towards more sophisticated healthcare and health-focused applications.
IoT technology is seen as a way by many to assist patients with chronic illness management. A study by the World Health Organisation showed that adherence to a long term medical treatment regime by patients with chronic illnesses such as HIV or cancer sits at only 50%, implying that only half of all patients follow their long-term treatment plans. This is an alarming statistic in itself and is already being addressed with wearables that can track heart rate and blood pressure, sending reminders to take medication and transmit relevant data to healthcare practitioners.
It is estimated monitoring and treating patients with chronic illnesses using IoT devices could potentially save up to US$290 billion annually in the U.S. and US$1.1 trillion globally according to McKinsey. These estimates are based on two drivers of value, cost savings in treatment and the value of longer lives and improved quality of life where IoT helps manage chronic illnesses.
Further, with ageing global population in both developed and developing nations, healthcare costs will add increased strain to existing healthcare systems. Significant disruption is needed to ensure more efficient and cost effective medical services. According to U.S. Census Bureau, the elderly population is expected to double globally by 2030 and this estimate is likely to be too conservative as developing countries like China are starting to feel the growing pains of a middle-class ageing population.
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