The Internet of Everything
The human body is a hugely complicated organism that for hundreds of thousands of years has relied on nature to be the primary judge of health, longevity and ability. But now the Internet of Everything has opened up new opportunities in health management, medicine, diet, and the environment that promise greater accuracy of diagnoses, greater sharing of knowledge and greater chance of proactive involvement in one’s personal health, not only for prosperous countries, but everywhere.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) is set to revolutionise all aspects of the world we live in. The people at Cisco firmly believe that everything from the public sector to the currency we use can benefit from its growth. Their recent white paper suggests that currently 99.4 percent of all physical objects in the world are still unconnected – meaning a mere 10 billion out of 1.5 trillion ‘things’ globally are connected. The potential is huge.
This huge potential is no more apparent than in the field of healthcare. With a projected $14.4 trillion of value at stake for companies and industries, the health sector is well positioned to take a significant piece of the pie. According to the white paper, for example, connected healthcare and patient monitoring alone will take up $106 billion of total potential value. The end-goal is to provide more patient-centric care by allowing continuous monitoring of health conditions in a less-expensive home setting, thus improving the quality of life for post-care patients and reducing the burden on hospitals and clinics.
Cisco believes that the reasons for this growth potential lie in the nature of inefficiencies in healthcare systems as they exist at present. For example, lots of knowledge and information – about both individual patients and wider practices – is stored in fragmented locations and is under the jurisdiction of different entities. It is frequently difficult to access all the required information about a case at the point of care. Furthermore, the nature of the doctor/patient relationship means that many tests and diagnoses are done manually and away from machines, while several treatments are not standardised between individual clinics – much less differing countries.
As the Internet of Everything increases in both size and scope, this will change. The greater number of sensors and connections in use will improve the ability of doctors and places of care to make use of smarter home monitoring systems. Machine-to-machine and machine-to-people connections will reduce the length of time required for hospital stays, while better asset utilisation will remove ad-hoc interpretations of test results and help to streamline treatments to take advantage of best-known practices – thus benefiting both developed and developing countries.
In-hospital systems will also be revolutionised. They will work by collecting comprehensive physiological information via non-invasive methods while gateways and the cloud will be used to analyse and store data. The cloud will then wirelessly send it to care providers for analysis and review. It means the Internet of Everything has the potential to replace the necessity of having a health professional regularly visit the patient to check their vital signs by instead having a continuous and automated flow of information. This has the effect of improving the quality of care thanks to constant attention while also lowering the cost of care by eliminating the need for a caregiver to actively collect and analyse data.
Away from the point of care, the smart home monitoring systems will function in a similar way. At present there are innumerable people around the world whose health suffers because they do not have access to effective monitoring.
There are countless benefits of taking the monitoring to the patient, rather than visa-versa. Take the example of a patient who is suffering from a chronic disease – they are significantly less likely to suffer from complications. Any complications that do arise are much more likely to be detected earlier, thus allowing for more effective treatment and improved recovery times. A cardiovascular disease sufferer could be monitored around the clock to prevent drug intoxication, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) could be easily detected on a remote electrocardiography machine, and data that indicated heart hypoxemia (lack of sufficient oxygen) would lead to faster detection of additional cardiac issues.
It’s also not hard to envisage a situation when the continuous home monitoring of an individual’s health provides constant feedback to the person via a home health hub. It means healthy and active people will also be able to benefit from the IoE’s potential. It will allow them to take a more proactive and preventative approach to their own healthcare by receiving the necessary information to enable them to make healthier choices – mitigating any possible illnesses at the earliest opportunity.
Ultimately the Internet of Everything is going to create a fundamental shift in how healthcare providers’ services are delivered and used – a shift that will be to the benefit of patients, businesses, and professionals.
By Daniel Price
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