The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly changing the ways in which businesses work. Spending on IoT is set to grow exponentially over the coming years with companies from all industries beginning to recognise the opportunities offered by IoT. A recent BCG report estimates total spending on IoT to reach €250bn by 2020 with a number of longer term forecasts showing that this growth rate will likely not be slowing down anytime soon. What does this mean? It means that right now, is probably the best time for IoT entrepreneurs to enter markets and build disruptive businesses. If that’s not enough to get your business brain tingling - perhaps these exciting opportunity spaces in healthcare might just inspire you…

IoT Spending

Behavioural change

Current models of patient segmentation often rely on limited misinformation, such as the individual’s perception of their health status. Through technologies like wearable remote monitoring, IoT offers the opportunity for deeper insights into both realistic perspectives of health status, as well as behavioural patterns and willingness to change. Portable devices with appropriate backend solutions may also allow earlier detection and diagnosis. Similarly, several recent IoT projects have sought to drive behavioural change. A Mckinsey report, a few years back found that 31% of the $3 trillion US health costs...

Could be directly attributed to behaviourally influenced chronic conditions… Poor medication adherence alone costs the United States more than $100 billion annually in avoidable health care spending.
‘Health International’ McKinsey & Company 2012

GetLief is a good example of a product that is attempting to directly change patient behaviours. Their primary product is a wearable device that measures the patient's emotional state and teaches how best to deal or alter them. Stress, for example, is a leading cause of numerous health conditions. Products like GetLief could enable patients to dramatically reduce their stress levels and in turn, reduce healthcare costs. The benefits of driving behavioural change are vast. For insurance companies, it would reduce a mass of avoidable healthcare costs. Similarly, the financial gains are huge by gathering a mass of data. Employers would also be a key stakeholder as it would ultimately result in fewer sick days.

Free diagnostics & medical treatment from human labour

Human error and misdiagnosis can lead to huge inefficiencies and costs for healthcare providers across the world. This poses a potential threat in respect to the patient's health, misdiagnosis can cause further suffering and make illnesses worse. The financial burden is also a great challenge, both through the wastage of incorrectly administered drugs as well as compensation. The NHS, for example, paid out £194m in compensation costs for misdiagnosis in 2014. Low-cost sensor technologies may provide a solution to these challenges. Leveraging the accuracy of embedded sensors in the patient’s body would lead to more accurate diagnosis, providing more accurate readings of EKG / heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, image recognition for skin disease, blood chemistry sensors, ranging from the more straightforward (blood glucose) to the highly sophisticated (detectors for dengue fever, on-chip PCR). The potential applications for how these technologies may manifest are vast. A good example might be AI for automating decision making; this would help pharmaceutical companies develop more useful drugs as well as offering clinicians all the information they need to make more accurate decisions.

Home and remote healthcare

As more patients suffer from chronic diseases, there will be an increase in the number of additional care hours required to ensure good-quality care. Home care provision has been demonstrated to be more effective and efficient than institutionalised care and likely even more so with long lasting illnesses. This, coupled with an ageing population, will make the necessity for home and remote healthcare dramatically increase in the near future.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Europe,
and research suggests that complex conditions such as diabetes and depression
will impose an even larger burden in the future.
‘Tackling Chronic Disease in Europe’ World Health Organization 2010

Great challenges will exist in providing a sufficient number of personnel to meet this rising demand. IoT robotics engines may take some of the burden off healthcare providers and allow them to provide a more round-the-clock service to patients. Robotics engines such as driverless cars and drones would enable the use of robot delivery. In this sense, we envision a world where patients are picked up and taken to medical places without the need for clinicians and nurses. Similarly, drugs and medical equipment could be delivered directly to the patient without the need for any human capital. IoT AI may also provide a solution to the limited staff challenge by offering the opportunity for personal assistants to stay in the home with the patient 24 hours a day. This would also provide a wealth of alternative benefits. Currently, caregivers are given limited time to spend with their patients to assess their wellbeing and health status, an around the clock service would provide insurance companies and healthcare providers with accurate, real-time data. This would reduce costs for insurance companies whilst, at the same time, making healthcare better. Another strong case for the use of IoT in home and remote healthcare is in creating new transformable and smart home environment for elderly people, that directly integrate their needs into the fabric of the home. Imagine embedding sensors into the home of a patient who has diabetes to assess how many times he has been to the toilet in 24 hours, this data would directly save time, people power, and in turn, costs for both healthcare providers and insurance companies.