By Linda Seid Frembes (@tenpixels), ThingWorx Marketing
Healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) is a big slice of the overall IoT pie, and the role of healthcare IoT in improving one’s life is an important one. Companies who enter this space must balance the needs of patients, as well as providers, insurers, medical devices makers, and pharmaceutical companies, all while ensuring the best clinical and financial outcome.
A report issued earlier this year from MarketResearch.com shows what’s at stake from a market growth and economic standpoint, predicting that the healthcare market segment will reach $117 billion by 2020. We recently caught up with Bipin Thomas, chairman of ICURO, to shed some light on what’s happening in healthcare IoT, and how healthcare IoT has closer ties to the industrial IoT than you may think.
Factors in Healthcare IoT
We’ve all seen the ads on TV and in print media for the plethora of drugs that have named that you can’t pronounce. Managing chronic illness is the economic engine of the healthcare industry. However, preventative medicine is becoming a big trend in healthcare; not just managing chronic care patients. “Care is moving to prevention, such as how to stop a pre-diabetic from becoming a diabetic,” says Thomas. “Finding ways to prevent people from becoming chronically ill is where the industry is headed.”
And that shift to prevention has an impact on healthcare technology. “There are lots of technology capabilities built around care management. The state of the healthcare ecosystem is moving to where they are deploying these technologies and tools to help with the digital transformation,” explains Thomas.
Healthcare laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act of 1996 that protects the privacy and security of patient data and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 which supports the creation of national healthcare infrastructure, are strong factors in the growth and development of healthcare IoT. “These laws bring forth infrastructure and security needs that are mandated by the US government. There are specific protocols and guidelines for any IT healthcare. The move from paper to digital records is a highly regulated task,” says Thomas. “Our healthcare IoT platform (featuring ThingWorx) includes security, analytics, mobility, and cloud. It’s a unifying platform that addresses the IoT needs for the medical industry.”
The Need for a Healthcare IoT Platform
ICURO’s healthcare IoT platform plays a vital role in connecting patients with a care team that includes the provider, the payer (insurer), the medical device manufacturer, and even the pharmaceutical/life sciences company. A common data flow is the IoT platform connects medical devices that can be deployed to patients at home. And we aren’t talking about step counts from a wearable watch – these inputs are high-end, FDA-approved medical devices for daily/continuous monitoring that can be managed by hospitals or payer groups.
“With the HITECH Act and new policies for the meaningful use of patient care data, it allows now for increased monitoring of the patient at home that is beyond an off-the-shelf wearable,” notes Thomas. “Healthcare needs to go where the patient is; the hospital or exam room is no longer the boundary. It’s about creating the ecosystem around the patient. How do you bring technology capabilities to the patient to get the biometric data and functional status on a real-time basis when they are not in the hospital or at their care provider? This is what is driving the need for a healthcare IoT platform that can connect with the patient and collect data for meaningful clinical decisions.”
The next challenging phase is deploying this same healthcare IoT platform for prevention and wellness. Thomas envisions, for example, a connected shopping cart to help manage healthy choices in nutrition to impact disease progression.
“There is a shift from a product-centric view to a consumer/patient view. The consumer is in the middle of it all; no longer the product. IoT plays a pivotal role in bringing the care team together to make that happen,” says Thomas.
From the Health of Humans to the Health of Machines
In late 2015, ICURO also moved into the manufacturing/industrial industry after several conversations with Fortune 500 companies in that space. Thomas says, “The result was always the notion that we are tracking the health of people, so why can’t we track the health of machines?”
Once a product is shipped, it can be tough to get a technician out to remote locations to manage preventative care, especially if the product is in a remote area with no constant connectivity and a lack of holistic data on its health. After all, deploying an IoT platform for industrial IoT (IIoT) isn’t that much different from the basic needs of the healthcare IoT: How is (the patient/the machine) doing and what does he/she/it need to stay healthy?
ICURO’s extensive IoT knowledge has served them well as they utilize the ThingWorx platform to address critical issues such as fleet management, supply chain improvements, and remote diagnostics for IIoT customers.
Thomas notes that Interoperability is the major challenge facing the IoT markets today, with data and system security a close second. He notes that “if interoperability is resolved, then you can deal with security in a more efficient way – no duplication of effort.” However, interoperability between ERP systems, databases, financial reporting systems, etc., remains a major barrier to a faster growth rate for IoT.
A Look Ahead
As with the healthcare IoT market, the numbers for the industrial IoT are also impressive. It is estimated by market research firm MarketsandMarkets that the industrial IoT market will be worth almost $320 billion by 2020.
Currently, the main issue for manufacturers is the ability to design and build IoT as part of the product design and development cycle. “Retrofits for sensors and connectivity are challenging and add cost, time, and effort. If it’s baked into the process, then that hassle will go away,” says Thomas. “The newer designs are going to incorporate IoT connectivity in it versus a retrofit, which adds architectural issues, communication issues and barriers, etc.”
In the near future, Thomas predicts that IoT could become the “mother of all systems” that functions as the framework that connects data (systems of record) systems, engagement systems, and intelligence systems together.
Download the case study to learn more about ICURO and how they are using the ThingWorx IoT platform.