Posted on

How IoT is Changing Health Informatics

Illustration: © IoT For All

Our current digitally-enhanced era has helped to illustrate just how valuable data can be. When collected and analyzed by experts, it can help guide us to make decisions in business, creative industries, and — perhaps most importantly — healthcare. Health informatics is a vital area of medicine in which data about patients and their illnesses is used to assess the progress of their personal health conditions, drive treatment decisions, and also to build important public health strategies.

Expertise in informatics can have positive outcomes in people’s lives, but there are constant efforts to develop and improve tools that can support this. Over the last several years, the development of the internet of things (IoT) has emerged as a potentially integral solution to various challenges. This connected ecosystem of wearable technology, static devices, and apps has been helping to collect and process data that is vital to informatics.

Diagnosis and Treatment

As patients, we often see diagnosis and treatment from a simplistic perspective. We go to the doctor, they perform some tests, and in the best-case scenario, they tell us what’s wrong and how we can fix it. But those diagnoses and treatments are not just pulled out of the brains of our physicians; they are often the product of huge amounts of data, allowing analysts to identify correlating attributes. Similarly, before reaching the market our medications are subject to tests, providing researchers with volumes of data to help understand their effectiveness.

IoT technologies are helping with the data harvesting and analysis aspects of diagnostic medicine. Using wearable devices that collect data regarding symptoms and patient conditions, alongside information from traditional hospital testing, artificial intelligence (AI) software is then used to undertake speedy and thorough analysis work, using algorithms to help identify the likely diagnosis. In fact, a 2019 study by medical journal The Lancet found that AI analysis of medical imaging was in some ways equivalent to that of human medical professionals.

However, it’s also important to note that the aforementioned study also suggests that relying on deep learning and machines alone is not without its challenges. These technologies are currently best employed when in collaboration with experts in health informatics fields. Machines are unable to provide patients with the reassurance and warmth that a human healthcare professional can bring, nor apply context and empathy to finding solutions. While tech can help provide insight, human perspective can be valuable in interpreting and applying it.

Patient Records

One of the main areas in which health informatics comes into play is with patient records. In order for health professionals to make appropriate choices for patients, they must have access to a patient’s full history, including the results of any scans and tests. In the past, a primarily paper approach has meant that clinicians have not always received patient records in a timely manner, or have had to seek access from various different departments or even offices. This means patients haven’t always been treated with efficiency. The IoT has been instrumental in improving this.

The adoption of electronic medical records has been instrumental in streamlining the collection, sharing, and organization of health informatics. Providers across various departments using the same platform do not need to request information be sent to them, the patient’s information is already accessible in the system. Digital x-rays can not just be captured quickly and safely, but also emailed to those undertaking diagnosis, and stored in EHRs, to be reviewed when assessing problems in the future. This digital patient information can also be stored, shared, and viewed on portable, secure medical IoT devices such as tablets and data monitoring tools for ease of use even in emergency scenarios.

This method is not only useful for those who use health informatics for diagnosis and treatment, but it’s also a reassuring development for the patient themselves. The ability to securely transfer files to be stored and viewed on IoT devices means that patients have easy access to their own records, and are able to review and distribute them as needed. It also means that, should they move state or country, they don’t need to overcome unnecessary hurdles in giving their new health care provider their full medical history.

Self Management

Healthcare is not only the remit of those who have been educated to work in the field. We each have a responsibility to our own health, and continuing required treatments. After all, physicians can’t be constantly holding our hands to make sure we’re doing the right things. The field of health informatics has played an important role in assisting patients to manage their own wellness and treatments. As health informaticians have a deep insight into understanding patients and what motivates and supports them, they are a key source of education and resources for those with illnesses. The IoT is assisting in this area, too.

Patients can wear wearable IoT technology that provides them with real-time data on their physical condition. Utilizing specialized platforms, such as Quio, patients can connect IoT enabled therapeutic devices to their computer or smartphone and share data on their medication, vital signs, and activities with their physician. This helps to enable a meaningful, data-supported dialogue between doctor and patient, and also allows patients to feel empowered to take control of their treatment.

Perhaps one of the primary ways in which the IoT is assisting health informaticians and patients is its user-friendliness. Patients may be unlikely to engage with tech if they are unable to understand how it works, or how to interact with it. Combining health monitoring tech with smartphones and apps that are easily navigable not only helps to provide patients with insights that encourage them to take control of their own treatment, but can also improve the quality of feedback that can assist health informatics in the future.

Conclusion

As with much in our world today, data can be a valuable resource for medical fields. Health informatics can provide insights into patient diagnosis, ongoing wellness, and treatment management. IoT has started to produce tools that can help support health informatics in monitoring, analysis, and utilization of patient data. By exploring how to collaborate with these tools effectively, the industry and its patients stand to benefit significantly

Read More