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With healthcare IT spending under a microscope, all investments must have a proven business case. Unfortunately, this can leave little room on the table for innovation. Leaders are tasked with responding to the most immediate hospital and clinic needs around regulation and infrastructure, rather than examining new opportunities for growth in emerging technologies like the IoT.

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg scenario for those pining for resources to get IoT programs and initiatives off the ground: IT leaders with tight budget constraints require proof of results to invest, while change agents need resources in order to provide proof of concept. It’s an unfortunate tug-of-war between fulfilling current needs reactively and creating solutions for problems proactively that may benefit more patients in the future.

As most hospitals are not-for-profit, prioritizing hospital IT needs comes down to what is most beneficial to the organization now, for the lowest cost. TechTarget research uncovered that a compelling IoT business case is the greatest need to seriously drive wearable technologies forward within the healthcare industry. Today, they found that most leaders focus on the challenges facing IoT adoption (otherwise known as “biometrics” in healthcare circles), such as inaccurate clinical data, lack of interoperability among systems, and added security risks.

In order for biometric-based technologies to reach its projected $12.5 billion market potential by 2024 (see chart below for revenue breakdown by region), these challenges will have to be swiftly overcome. Because, the potential benefits are aplenty. According to a recent Tractica report, the upside of implementing biometrics-based technologies includes improved administrative processing, patient safety, workflow and authentication processes, pharmacy dispensing, and remote monitoring. I’ve covered the potential application of RFID deployment in hospitals previously, too.

biometric market projection

The healthcare industry has a ways to go, though, and in the meantime, patients and the companies that serve them are taking IoT innovation into their own hands. When an industry moves slower in tech adoption than the general consumer populace, people begin to create ideal experiences independently, often hacking the current options available to them.

artificial pancreas
An “artificial pancreas” technology kit. [Credit: Business Insider]
That’s exactly what a couple did to solve the current issues facing diabetes sufferers. Together, Scott Leibrand and Dana Lewis, along with a small group of engineers and developers, assembled an “artificial pancreas” to manage Lewis’ insulin for her. They developed the artificial pancreas as a hack to the current insulin monitor and pump that required consistent monitoring and manual administration. The pancreas is a group of electronics that mimic the functions that Lewis’ is missing, with a Raspberry Pi mini computer taking data from a USB stick and glucose monitor and transferring the recommended dosage to the insulin pump. As reported by Business Insider, the data is then automatically uploaded online in real-time, so Lewis and Leibrand can track it on-the-go.

Or, consider research currently being conducted by the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center. Faced with the fact that many dementia patients require around-the-clock care, and facilities often can’t afford the overhead required to deliver it, researchers created a “care ecosystem” built on the IoT that tracks patient behaviors via in-home sensors. Data is reported back to “care navigators” who can monitor irregularities and engage accordingly. The care ecosystem, currently in clinical trials, would provide huge cost-savings to hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities by more efficiently deploying resources on an as-needed basis as determined by machine learning automation.

Innovation in an industry as regulated as healthcare is slow-moving and requires a lot of internal collaboration among those wielding the purse strings. Until the industry as a whole has evolved to the point of delivering services built on the IoT as the status quo, pockets of innovation will continue to grow in silos among consumers, educators, and even companies that support the growth of connected devices to advance patient care. It’s only when every stakeholder begins to work in concert that solutions become scalable enough to deliver results and establish a new baseline for the healthcare experience.

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