Bridget Karlin, acting general manager of IOT strategy at Intel, picked up on the theme of costs in her opening remarks, noting one estimate that $750 billion is wasted annually in healthcare costs.

In other developed nations, the cost of a patient discharge is $6,000 versus $18,000 in the US, said Pranav Patel, general manager at GE Healthcare Services.

“Where’s waste coming from? Soon you realize it’s administrative burden, which is about 300% more,” Patel said, adding that doctors are spending only 30% of their time with patients and the rest on administrative duties.

The Internet of Things will directly affect this workload, Patel suggested. Likewise, the development of new pharmaceuticals — now around $1 billion in R&D for each new drug — will be made substantially less costly through better use of data, and there’ll be more opportunity for what he called “predictive medicine,” whereby treatments are increasingly optimized for each patient.

The IoT plays a significant role in a broad range of healthcare applications, from managing chronic diseases at one end of the spectrum to preventing disease at the other. Here are some examples of how its potential is already playing out:


Clinical care:

Hospitalized patients whose physiological status requires close attention can be constantly monitored using IoT-driven, noninvasive monitoring. This type of solution employs sensors to collect comprehensive physiological information and uses gateways and the cloud to analyze and store the information and then send the analyzed data wirelessly to caregivers for further analysis and review. It replaces the process of having a health professional come by at regular intervals to check the patient’s vital signs, instead providing a continuous automated flow of information. In this way, it simultaneously improves the quality of care through constant attention and lowers the cost of care by eliminating the need for a caregiver to actively engage in data collection and analysis.

Remote monitoring:

There are people all over the world whose health may suffer because they don’t have ready access to effective health monitoring. But small, powerful wireless solutions connected through the IoT are now making it possible for monitoring to come to these patients instead of vice-versa. These solutions can be used to securely capture patient health data from a variety of sensors, apply complex algorithms to analyze the data and then share it through wireless connectivity with medical professionals who can make appropriate health recommendations.

Early intervention/prevention:

Healthy, active people can also benefit from IoT-driven monitoring of their daily activities and well-being. A senior living alone, for example, may want to have a monitoring device that can detect a fall or other interruption in everyday activity and report it to emergency responders or family members. For that matter, an active athlete such as a hiker or biker could benefit from such a solution at any age, particularly if it’s available as a piece of wearable technology.

Digitizing and streamlining the sharing of health data has the potential for dramatic gains in efficiency significant cost savings – Goldman Sachs recently estimated that Internet of Things (IoT) technology can save billions of dollars for asthma care. It’s a challenging dichotomy, as CIOs continue to look for ways to manage the risks of IoT and capture the benefits. Consider the following examples:

Flexible patient monitoring

Keeping patients in a hospital setting is expensive. The average daily cost for a single inpatients was over $1,700 in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Remote monitoring products – such as the BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System – give healthcare pros the option to move patients to their home and retain monitoring of their status by doctors and nurses. The BodyGuardian system addresses security requirements in several ways. The system separates patient identification information and observation data. In addition, the system encrypts data on the device, during transmission and in storage.

Improved drug management

The expense of creating and managing drugs is one of the biggest issues facing the healthcare industry today. Forbes reported the average cost to develop an approved drug at $55 million (drug companies have stated higher costs). In addition, there is a multi-billion-dollar industry in fraudulent drugs. IoT devices and processes may prove helpful in better managing these costs. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laid out guidelines for RFID (Radio-frequency identification) and drug supply chain management. The first step was to add RFID tags to medication containers. Adding these tags enable producers, consumers and regulators to have greater confidence in the drug supply chain. The next step is embedding technology into the medication itself. WuXiPharmaTech and TruTag Technologies are just two companies developing edible IoT, “smart” pills that can help monitor both medication regiments and health issues, which can in turn help drug companies and healthcare providers alike mitigate risks and losses.