Connected Health: Exploring IoT Solutions for Healthcare Transformation

By Eisele Candace Last updated : December 19, 2023

IoT Solutions for Healthcare Transformation

The Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed many industries. By providing a seamlessly integrated bundle of sensors, hardware, and software, the IoT can easily accomplish many essential tasks as a barely noticeable background process. For example, in the food industry, food has to be kept within certain temperatures to ensure consumer safety. Pre-IoT, a designated worker had to manually check and record the temperature of all refrigeration and warming units at frequent intervals, a time-consuming, error-prone task. The IoT solution is to automate this entire process, freeing up workers to focus on the food. They know the food is being kept at the proper temperature by the IoT system, improving consumer safety.

Similar IoT solutions have been widely applied to many different businesses and even homes. Smart Homes use IoT bundles to seamlessly monitor and control their electronic systems, optimizing energy efficiency and minimizing the homeowner's need to perform tedious chores. Businesses use IoT solutions to track their inventory and integrate this information with their security, sales, and communications systems.

The healthcare industry has been slow to embrace IoT technology solutions, but early adopters in healthcare are beginning to see the vast potential of IoT in improving efficiency and patient outcomes, and IoT solutions for healthcare are being rapidly developed and implemented as the benefits of IoT in healthcare become increasingly obvious.

Healthcare transformation and the concept of connected health

In the past, healthcare workers used to record information about patients in patient records, which were folders full of paper, often covered with incomprehensible handwriting. While this system had some merits, it often led to inefficiency and poor patient outcomes. For example, if a patient showed up unconscious at an ER, the healthcare workers were unable to access the patient's records, and therefore, often came to the wrong diagnosis and applied the wrong treatment. With EHRs, this rarely happens. The staff can quickly look up the patient's records, observe the patient has diabetes and a shellfish allergy, order a rapid blood sugar test, and correctly diagnose and treat the cause of the patient's collapse.

EHRs were just the beginning of the concept of connected health. Currently, many patients have been pleased to note that they can access their test results online through a patient portal without having to wait for their doctor to call them. Patients can also schedule appointments without having to wait on hold before talking to a receptionist and can communicate with their doctor via messages.

Being able to communicate with your doctor between appointments via messages has significantly improved healthcare efficiency. For example, a patient worried about a side effect from a new medication can seek advice from their doctor instead of rushing off to the ER or discontinuing the medication, options that can be expensive and even life-threatening. Thus, patients are already benefiting immensely from the introduction of IoT into healthcare.

A patient-centered approach to monitoring via wearable healthcare technology

A new avenue of IoT is currently being explored: patient monitoring. Patients can wear sensors that collect physiological data in real time and upload it to an app shared with their doctor. Such systems can track physical activity, sleep patterns, heart rate, and blood pressure, and even provide real time ECG and EGG information. These data can be used in a variety of ways: measuring compliance with medications and recommended exercise programs, determining the effectiveness of treatments, and monitoring health conditions.

More sophisticated wearable technology is in the works. These devices are expected to monitor various aspects of blood chemistry, such as blood glucose levels and viscosity, in real time through noninvasive means. Monitoring devices that can be installed in toilets to check urine chemistry are also expected to become widely available in the near future.

Although not wearables, monitoring devices used in the home or other environments, such as smartphone apps, video cameras, and alert buttons, are also starting to infiltrate the healthcare system. An early use of such devices is the "alert" button concept used by many seniors to summon help. Seniors can wear a button on their body or have them installed in critical areas around the home, and if they experience a fall or other disabling event they can rapidly summon help and avoid the "long lie" phenomenon that is well-known to lead to poor outcomes.

Embracing IoT in healthcare: Integrating, connecting, and exchanging data in real-time

Collecting data through sensors and other means is only one aspect of an IoT solution. IoT solutions are characterized by their deep integration into the infrastructure. The central point in modern healthcare is the EHR. Each patient has an EHR, and all of the data collected by wearable technology and other, more traditional tests, such as blood chemistry and imaging, need to be imported into the EHR where healthcare workers, patient caregivers, and the patient can access it.

Passive collection of data is not sufficient; a well-designed IoT solution will also be preprogrammed to issue alerts to the appropriate parties if any of the data exceed certain thresholds. For example, a patient with heart disease being monitored by wearable technology should be alerted to proceed to the ER if any of their parameters suggest they are about to experience a myocardial infarction or are experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm. Less dramatically, a doctor can be alerted if a diabetic patient's blood sugar levels keep deviating from the norm, suggesting that the patient's medication needs to be adjusted.

An examination of innovative solutions and their impact on patient care: case studies of IoT healthcare applications

Mental health care

The IoT has transformed the treatment of mental health disorders. When treated through conventional means, these conditions have low patient compliance and generally, poor outcomes. However, the development of an IoT solution that monitors the patient via a smartphone app has led to dramatically improved outcomes. Patients are required to report their compliance with treatment, such as taking medication, through the app, and they also report their mood and symptoms through the app at pre-designated intervals. These apps have been demonstrated to remarkably improve compliance with treatment and they are invaluable in detecting the beginning stages of a crisis, allowing for a swift intervention before they progress into self-harm or other devastating consequences.

Smartphone apps are currently available for treating a wide range of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a fairly common condition. If left untreated, it is associated with high rates of stroke. It can be difficult to diagnose because episodes of fibrillation occur at random, and the odds of one occurring during a visit to a doctor are low. Wearable technology and the IoT have made it possible to detect patients with atrial fibrillation with almost 100% accuracy. For example, a recent randomized controlled trial of patients thought to be at increased risk of atrial fibrillation found that conventional health care detected zero patients with the condition while wearable technology accurately diagnosed 8.6% of the cohort with atrial fibrillation.


The IoT is transforming medicine and health care. We can envision a complete IoT solution as consisting of patient and home monitoring, which feeds data into the EHR, where it is analyzed and generates actionable output to the patient, caregivers, and healthcare workers. The ultimate goal is to produce a seamless, fully integrated, and highly efficient system that dramatically improves patient outcomes while reducing costs, eliminating tedious manual chores, and reducing patient and healthcare worker frustration with the healthcare system. Such a system will also help implement personalized and fully patient-centered care.

By integrating patient monitoring with EHRs and patient portals, healthcare IoT solutions can transform the healthcare experience into a fully personalized, highly efficient process that seamlessly blends into a person's life. Although there are some challenges of IoT in healthcare that still need to be overcome, being part of the IoT is clearly the future of medicine.

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