How the IoT can turn healthcare from reactive to proactive

01 June 2016

Sean Weir, business development director, smart and M2M, Arqiva

Sean Weir, business development director, smart and M2M, Arqiva

For all the talk of smart homes and cities, it’s the healthcare industry that has most reason to be excited about the IoT revolution.

With connected ‘things’ continuously communicating, the provision of medical care could change beyond recognition. Perhaps the most significant shift will be a switch from a reactive approach to a proactive one.

Healthcare in the UK today is largely reactive – the vast majority of medical provision comes after something has happened or a condition has been identified. However, with the IoT all this could change. Whilst the technologies being developed may not be capable of foreseeing illness in a telepathic way, they could give us a clearer indication of problems to come than anything currently available.

For example, take fitness wearables (such as FitBit). These devices track everything from the number of daily steps the wearer takes to their sleep patterns at night, calories burned, and heart rate. If these devices were to take the next logical step and log this information with a person’s GP, any potential conditions could be identified much earlier – even before they become a real problem.

To manage the large amount of new information this process would produce, IoT systems can be created to automatically monitor their output for an individual user and understand where it falls within a suitable range. Any results that sit outside the ‘safe zone’ would trigger an alarm, thus showing that something is awry. In short, GPs would manage by exception, being alerted to noteworthy events as and when they first arise, rather than having to wade through a tumult of data.

Such a use case represents just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits the IoT could bring to our healthcare system. The figures it could save the NHS are staggering, but more than this, it could help millions of people around the country live happier and healthier lives.