The world’s older population is growing at an accelerated pace. According to a recent United Nations report, the world’s 65-and-older population will triple by 2050.
Older adults have complex needs which put a lot more pressure on clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities to care for these patients.
Chronic conditions that commonly affect older people such as cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic disorders are expensive to treat, challenging healthcare organizations to come up with better business models to support these increased costs.
This is where connected health comes into play. This technology enabled care refers to the use of technology, digital media and mobile communications in healthcare.
Within the connected health model, all devices, services and interventions are designed around the patient’s needs. The goal is to deliver cost-efficient care and empower patients to self-manage their health using smart, connected medical devices.
And judging by the latest reports, connected health is having its moment.
The medical device connectivity market is expected to reach $33.5 billion this year, a huge jump from $3.5 billion in 2012.
These medical devices are “smart” because they rely on technologies like blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
But it’s highly sophisticated software that enables these devices to connect to computers, tablets, smartphones and other medical devices and exchange information, either in real time or asynchronously, explains Orthogonal.
As a result, doctors can now diagnose and treat patients remotely.
Connected Health – The Path To Better Healthcare
Some of the biggest brands in the industry are working on innovations that will speed the adoption of connected health.
One such company is Amazon, who is using their voice activated technology to help patients achieve better health outcomes. Earlier this year, over 100 patients at Cedars-Sinai medical centre were provided with access to Amazon Echos as a way to improve clinical outcomes.
According to Digital Authority Partners, this technology has various applications in healthcare. Alexa skills are currently reminding people to take their medication, offer diagnostics suggestions and help users shop for health insurance.
For healthcare executives, the appeal of the connected health model lies in its ability to reduce healthcare costs. When patients self-manage their conditions, they don’t need to spend as much time in the hospital.
This is especially important for chronically ill patients. Thanks to connected health, they can now be monitored remotely, so that they are able to live more normal lives, and that doctors are able to spend time with other patients.
If you still aren’t convinced of the necessity of connected health, let’s take a look at some recent statistics illustrating how connected health and digital technology are taking over the healthcare industry.
- In 2016, 52 percent of hospitals were using three or more connected health technologies.
- The same study found that 47 percent of companies are expected to expand their use of connected health technologies over the next few years.
- 60 percent of healthcare organizations have already introduced IoT into their facilities.
- Worldwide, an average of 12 percent of people said they currently use a connected health device, and another 12 percent said they had formerly used one.
- China is a leader in terms of adopting connected health devices, with 28 percent of people saying they used a connected health device.
- By 2020, 40 percent of IoT technology will be health-related.
- Hospital admissions decreased by 16 percent in a study of heart patients who received messages related to their condition through an app.
- 74 percent of people believe that it’s easier to share lifestyle information if they see it as a way to help physicians treat people more effectively. Some mentioned they would be willing to share dietary and exercise information if they could receive tailored information back.
- The same study found 50 percent of people would be comfortable contacting their physician digitally.
- Additionally, 55 percent of consumers would share information digitally, if it resulted in cost savings.
- 68 percent of physicians say that at-home diagnostic testing will help to drive better outcomes for patients.
- 44 percent of physicians use their smartphones to communicate with other professionals in their facility.
- It’s predicted that IoT can cut costs from clinical and operational inefficiencies by 25 percent, or $100 billion per year.
- Wearable technology devices are the second most popular use of IoT.
- 28.3 million wearable devices were sold in 2016. The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts this will increase to 82.5 million in 2020, a 31 percent growth.
Concerns Worth Mentioning
Despite the fact that the above statistics suggest a growing acceptance for connected healthcare, many within the industry share some concerns.
Some experts fear that connected health will leave people vulnerable to having their health data shared hacked.
It’s not only hackers that might have access to sensitive health data.With the increasing popularity of smart health devices, there are some companies who will share or sell this information to third parties.
Patients are often warned about this on the terms and conditions page of a device manufacturer, but many will fail to notice it.
Another concern is that some devices are poorly designed and aren’t created to be user-friendly. If patients cannot understand the devices and the technology they are using, they can won’t get as much from using them or worse, they might end up harming themselves.
There’s no doubt that connected health has a promising future in healthcare.
Smart devices allows for remote monitoring, which means there is less strain on doctors, who can now tend to patients with no added stress.
Connected devices are also proving to be effective in facilitating better communication between providers and consumers. We should expect to see smart devices becoming the norm in healthcare setting, as regulators adopt more laws to encourage the widespread use of connected health.
Author bio: Julian Gnatenco is a health professional working at JGBilling, a medical billing company in Chicago.