At the heart of healthcare

October 2015

Hi-tech medical displayTerry Espiner, Client Director, UK Healthcare at Cisco, looks at the relationship between the IoE (internet of everything) and the transformation of the healthcare industry.

As the UK’s population grows it’s undeniable that the number of those seeking healthcare is also on the rise. Hospital care admissions have increased by 60 per cent over the last decade, putting further strain on resources in an environment that is increasingly calling for better customer care and a reduction in state costs. Moreover, an ageing population is adding to the pressure on the health service, bringing significant cost implications.

Research shows that, even back in 2008, the average cost of supporting a retired household was double that of a non-retired one, and if this trend continues, expenditure on long-term care for the elderly may increase by as much as 120 per cent by 2030. It is therefore without a doubt that there is much to be done to better utilise the National Health Service (NHS) to provide the best quality of care that meets the demands of today.

The potential for digitisation to improve all industries across the UK via data sharing, analytics and collaboration is undeniable. The intelligent connection of physical devices has infinite possibilities, especially when such technologies are applied to ‘human situations’. It is here, that the IoE - the connection of people, process, data and things - can drive significant and meaningful change throughout the entire healthcare industry.

Cisco’s latest IoE report ‘The Internet of Everything: Unlocking the Opportunity for UK Start-ups’ highlights that the healthcare industry stands to gain more than £48bn in value from IoE within the next decade. This is incentivising businesses of all sizes to seize this opportunity and bring innovative, IP-enabled healthcare solutions to market.

Connecting health devices, people and processes to the internet has immense benefits for patients and providers alike that go far beyond keeping doctors, patients and administrative staff connected while in hospitals. Enhanced data management and improved operational efficiencies are just some of the advantages of digitisation, ultimately serving to provide the best quality of patient care while equally alleviating much of the strain on healthcare resources.

Stay connected, stay alive

IP-enabled devices such as heart rate monitors, inhalers or mobile applications enable patients to remain connected before, during and after hospitalisation and consequently provide healthcare professionals visibility of, and automated access to, important data in order to monitor patients remotely.

Thanks to the IoE, physicians are now using mobile devices to connect via the cloud, gain omnipresent access to medical records, and in turn communicate more efficiently and securely with colleagues. This is particularly pertinent in emergency situations, where the ability of paramedics to access and provide up-to-the-second information on a patient’s condition is critical.

By embracing IoE technologies, practitioners can now bring the care to the patients, rather than expect patients to come to the care. Telehealth and video consultations enable practitioners to pre-emptively prescribe treatments.

Not only does this keep customer care costs under control by reducing time and resources involved in unnecessary one-on-one visits, but it also frees up appointments to relieve the strain on services and ensure doctors have more time to attend to the most urgent conditions.

The connected pill box is another great example of how connecting ‘things’ with the internet can enhance medical processes and patient care. With such technology, prescriptions can be automatically renewed once dosage is running low and patients can electronically deliver prescriptions to pharmacies with little involvement. This provides patients with a consistent and convenient service, and ensures that medication is not missed, while equally enhancing the supply chain as items are ordered on an as-needed basis.

Furthermore, connected health and automated data capture and communication also has unprecedented benefits for insurance companies and bill payers, as it can facilitate a more timely and accurate documentation and response to claims.

IoE in action

Cisco’s work with the Airedale NHS Trust in West Yorkshire showcases the potential of telehealth and digitisation. The Trust deployed a 24-hour telemedicine hub to connect over 1,000 patients in residential care homes across 33 communities to nurses and doctors, to deliver remote video consultations. The hospital experienced immediate results, seeing a 45 per cent reduction in hospital admissions and a 39 per cent decrease in the length of stay within the first year alone.

Another example of how the IoE significantly improves treatment during medical visits or hospitalisation is seen in the Nottingham University Hospital’s deployment of connected, state-of-the art video technologies. Such technologies have since enabled cystic fibrosis sufferers to participate in virtual group classes, which otherwise would have been impossible.

As the industry realises the benefits and value at stake of the IoE further innovation is imminent. It’s not only large enterprises and organisations that are harnessing the potential of IoE, but also many startup businesses in the UK who are finding innovative alternatives to traditional healthcare.

Chronic disease management, in particular, has the potential to generate £9billion within the next decade providing substantial opportunity for new businesses looking for high-volume, high-value applications.

uMotif is a successful digital startup already making waves in the health industry by using engaging web and mobile apps to help people track and monitor their health and choose whether to share their data with clinicians, carers or even family and friends. Another example is seen in Kinesis Health Technologies, which develops mobility and falls risk assessment technology by combining Bluetooth with tri-axial gyroscopes and accelerometers worn by users, particularly the more elderly.

Enabling IoE

It’s undeniable that IoE provides a brighter future for the healthcare industry, however there is still much to be done by way of progress and widespread adoption. Cisco estimates that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, yet today less than one per cent of things that can be connected are. Much of IoE’s success will consequently rely on collaborative partnerships between businesses, authorities and patients alike, within an ecosystem that not only supports innovation but which centres on trust.

One of the major concerns among those reluctant to embrace new technologies within the health sector is data privacy and the management of personal data. It is therefore essential that businesses and healthcare providers adhere to a policy of transparency, while exerting diligence in implementing and following necessary measures to ensure this data remains secure.

Opening up public data sets has huge potential for the advancement of technology in healthcare. The Open Data Institute has evaluated that a switch from statin prescribing data to generics would save as much as £200m a year for the NHS.

The future is IoE

As evidenced, the opportunities provided by the internet of everything are immense. The connection of people, process, data and things will dramatically evolve the way in which we live, work and communicate. For healthcare this will mean a transformation of patient care as we know it.

Now, businesses of all sizes are being called upon to embrace the IoE, to not only future-proof their own competitive and growth strategies, but to better society as a whole. Such technologies will play a pivotal role in positioning patients at the very heart of healthcare - exactly how it should be.

References
Projections of Demand for and Costs of Social Care for Older People In England, 2010 to 2030, under Current and Alternative Funding Systems’ Personal Social Services Research Unit, The University of Kent / London School of Economics, December 2011
 

Image: iStock/482254811

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