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Healthcare in the Digital Age: How the “Internet of Things” is Changing the Game

Healthcare in the Digital Age: How the “Internet of Things” is Changing the GameThis is a guest post by: Beth Kelly who is a freelance blogger and writer from Chicago, IL. She’s become passionate about healthcare and technology issues, and how the two can intersect to make life easier for anyone with chronic health issues. In her free time she’s an avid gardener and lover of silent films. You can find her on twitter @bkelly_88.

Today’s latest digital innovations have progressed beyond the limits of the tech landscape, taking healthcare in a whole new direction. The “Internet of Things” is connecting health apps and health-tracking wearables with home automation platforms and the “cloud”, ultimately changing the ways in which both patients and physicians view their relationship to technology.

What began with basic apps and health trackers has grown to include the use of wearable tech to provide the healthcare industry with an astonishing amount of biometric data on just about anyone. These interactive devices form a growing sensor rich ecosystem, which helps medical professionals monitor, diagnose and treat patients with an entirely new approach to patient care. With new devices and apps designed to connect these devices, the “Internet of Things” is rapidly becoming the “Internet of You”.

Taking and Tracking Your Data
From the simple movements of specific limbs to more advanced biometric data, such as ECG and Pulsoximetrie-based information, almost anything a doctor needs to monitor can now be accessed remotely. Indeed, the “Internet of Things” does not focus so much on the “things”, but on the person at the center of the equation. Allowing for new developments in telemedicine, many of these tools are already at use around the world. Wireless scales, sleep monitoring devices, blood glucose monitoring devices, and other activity monitors are connecting people to their healthcare provider from the safety and convenience of their home. These devices can detect even the slightest changes occurring with a person’s body, giving physicians an idea of a patient’s “real time” activity profile. The more sensors used to gather this data, the greater the resolution of an individual’s overall picture of health.

Apple Tools Take the Stage
Once again Apple has become an innovator in the field of technology. With the advent of the Apple Watch, consumers were already intrigued by its unique “tap” feature and the implications it would have for biometric monitoring. Adding to its vast range of functionality, the FDA has approved an app for the Apple Watch that will allow the wearable tech to monitor blood glucose levels. This new app will help diabetic patients to know when their blood sugar is either too high or too low, sending immediate notifications when levels trend towards the dangerous.

Smart Home Platform Interaction
Home may be where the heart is, but it is also quickly becoming a digital haven where in all of over everyday devices are interacting with each other. From ADT Security Packages to Nest’s various products, home automation has become desirable for home security purposes — but did you realize that wearable tech devices that interface with automated systems can also help anticipate your health needs? What’s more: apps like FitBit and Jawbone can connect directly to security automation apps. With wearable tech sending biometric data to your smart home, it becomes possible for your home to adjust its internal atmosphere based on telemetry it is receiving about your current state of being. If you are exhibiting signs of being overly stressed, your smart home devices will be able to set the temperature and play soothing music to make you feel more comfortable when you walk through the door. Alternatively, your home might anticipate from this data that you would feel better having a nice warm bath. There is also apps that will make your “smart fridge” helpful with real time meal planning for patients whose doctors have placed them on restrictive diets.

Experts on the Future
As the development of new and more accurate sensors hit the market, this will inevitably improve electronic devices that monitor and transmit biometric data. New algorithms and methods for utilizing Big Data will also continue to make healthcare-related information more manageable. This is encouraging, since this will give rise to even more practical health-related apps and devices that take patient diagnosis and treatment to that next level. These technologies will also help resolve a number of the supply chain issues within the healthcare industry.

The Future of Interconnected Bodies and Appliances
In this stage of the digital evolution, the healthcare industry is experiencing a major biometric data boom. Tracking everything from general fitness to vital signs and more has changed how doctors interact with their patients and meet their medical needs. With the tools to create new solutions for chronic pain and other health problems at hand, creativity will be what sparks new genius as one heads into the future. Could a panel of controls implanted into a person’s forearm one day help them to control the lights, temperature and other aspects of their home, while working to monitor and improve the owner’s health? That reality could be closer than you think.

The Internet of Things, mobile apps and wearable tech has significantly brought humans and machines in closer contact with one another. Indeed, we might find that the next phase of this transition will take humanity from wearable tech to sensor-based implants surgically implanted within the patient’s body. As we develop even more sophisticated tools, the sky’s the limit for connecting man to machine.

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