December 22, 2016
By: Kaveh Safavi

One topic I’m often asked about in my capacity as global healthcare lead for Accenture is the Internet of Things (IoT) and what role it will play. There’s enormous excitement around the subject, and much confusion.

What are we really talking about here? It is more than just the presence of sensing devices and the use of the Internet. Those have been available for nearly two decades. The IoT is when you have machines interacting with other machines solving a problem or automating a process without human intervention. Information from a sensing device is received by a computing device, which interprets and responds to the data.

It’s been a decade since the IoT emerged in the energy industry. People talked then about smart grids metering and monitoring themselves, self-adjusting power transference to maximize efficiency.

Can healthcare work like that? Yes, but it is early. Already we see something like it in the manufacturing process of pharmaceuticals. In care delivery, pacemakers and defibrillators are being calibrated remotely and automatically. A startup has recently invented a “smart-chair” that replaces the bedside chair and can be used for transportation to test eliminating the need for a wheelchair. Imagine pairing that up with autonomous transport technology and the scheduling system and you can see a time when patients move around the hospital when they need to move – no waiting, no porters, no falls from transfer.

There is a huge and obvious need for such efficiencies across healthcare. Yet an IoT revolution is still evolving. I expect to see more IoT in the back office and supply chain before it gets to the bedside. There will be some very meaningful innovations in diagnosis and treatment but the most widely appreciated ones will be when IoT changes the nature of the service experience. Experimentation and validation are still required; so is the proof of a tangible benefit over what is now in place.

I expect all this to come soon, perhaps starting in less developed countries where the need is great and existing alternatives are limited. It won’t be one company providing all components, but rather broad platforms that offer interconnectivity, built around systems of care, not just single devices.

What the IoT offers is a chance to re-examine productivity, both how we define it and how we achieve it. For healthcare, this is especially appropriate as we address the concerns of an aging population, clinician shortage and most importantly patient expectations that they receive care on their own terms.

What do you expect to see from the Internet of Things in healthcare? I look forward to hearing from you.

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