Not many will disagree that the global pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in healthcare. With a healthcare system stressed to a breaking point, medical professionals have had to prioritize critical cases and increasingly turn to technology tools such as telemedicine and remote patient monitoring to manage the needs of their non-COVID patients.
As we begin to look beyond the pandemic, we will not only have the lessons of this time but improved tools to support the delivery of care. In 2021, the combination of 5G and AI will transform treatment protocols with intelligent decisions that drive improved outcomes.
At the heart of many of these protocols is IoT — a technology that has already shown itself as a disruptive factor in the healthcare industry, according to 73% of healthcare executives. Analysts from Deloitte agree as well, reporting that the market for the Internet of connected Medical Things (IoMT) is expected to grow to $158B by 2022.
The Promise of IoT
Connected health provides the technologies needed to automate, enhance, and mobilize legacy medical processes and solutions, truly to transform and improve the ways that patient care is delivered. Solutions such as IoT-enabled remote patient monitoring, for example, leverage sensors that are embedded wireless communication capabilities – typically facilitated through a cellular gateway – to effortlessly collect and upload patient data to a secure, cloud-based application or platform. This allows both healthcare professionals and patients, depending upon the parameters put in place, to access that data along with trends, analysis, and other information that will help ensure proper medical treatment is administered. Just about everyone in the healthcare ecosystem will agree that the ability to monitor patients remotely has immense value by enabling improved patient outcomes and reducing costs across the board.
We can see this value, particularly in chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Diabetic patients must consider various data points, including food and drink, meal timing, carbohydrate intake, and activity level, to effectively manage their blood glucose levels and insulin dosage. Most patients make these decisions based on their recollection or a rudimentary manual process, and errors can lead to incorrect dosing of insulin or poor management of the disease.
Today, however, IoT gives us the ability to capture a massive set of data over time that impacts an individual’s disease process, including how the body has reacted to insulin dosing over the course of his or her disease. However, the problem is that we have not had the bandwidth, access, and processing power to tap into that data in a way that patients or clinicians could use it to make real-time decisions.
5G and AI: IoT Gamechangers
For connected health, the promise of 5G technology is the ability to put in place an instantaneous integration between a patient’s remote monitoring device and a robust medical history data set in the cloud.
With 5G speeds and bandwidth, we can process information as it happens with feedback provided to the patient in real-time. For people with diabetes, disease management will shift from a patient-calculated, patient-managed therapy to a more precise automated treatment.
The industry will also see the impact in cardiac monitoring. An electrocardiogram captures information about your heart and maps the different data components. If you are capturing this data in short bursts of 30 to 40 seconds, the collection is not that onerous of a task. Today, however,
most report patient monitoring applications can use between 50 kilobytes and 1.5 megabytes of data per month. For patients with implanted devices such as a pacemaker or defibrillator, where the cardiology team might monitor heart function several times per week, each transmission may be 50 to 60 kilobytes. Add this up over the span of a month, and the technology would use 10 – 50 gigabytes of data, a total much higher than a consumer’s typical data plan.
While 5G enables a high bandwidth transmission, AI will turn data into actionable information. The combination of 5G and AI will further transform healthcare, driving greater efficiencies in patient care and cost models. It also will equip our healthcare system to work remotely and collaboratively with patients, caregivers, clinicians, and facilities. The pandemic forced us to accelerate the use of technology to manage a crisis, but in 2021 these tools will proactively advance medicine.
About Bryan Lubel
Bryan Lubel is the Executive Vice President, Connected Health at KORE where he is responsible for IoT solution delivery. The KORE IoT Managed Services team helps customers design, manage and scale IoT solutions. Prior to joining the KORE team he served as president of Integron for 12 years. He has 30+ years of general management, sales, marketing, and system design experience.