How IoT will disrupt healthcare

There are hundreds of proposals for the IoT in the health services. Half of them could be terrible. If only we knew which half! I’m not sure about other countries but whenever I hear about ‘disruptive technology’ and the British National Health Service (NHS), I always feel nervous.

We’ve already wasted £11 billion (€12.31 billion) and rising on a ‘fit for purpose’ programme for IT that wasn’t fit for anything. It would be a brave NHS purchaser that would sign off on any more ‘disruption’. Surely, if they are going to sell the idea, they need a new catchphrase, says Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer.

For now, in this sector at least, IoT needs to be a bit less brash and ambitious. We don’t want to see any more flash IT salesmen flaunting their wealth. Acqueon claims its IoT could save the NHS £500 million (€559.72 million) a year. Well, OK, prove it, by taking your payment as a commission on the savings you create.

The savings they are so confident about will come from solving the problem of medication noncompliance – that situation where patients don’t keep taking the pills. This will get worse as our population ages. IoT connected pill boxes don’t miss their doses.

Failing to take medication correctly leads to 200,000 premature deaths in Europe a year. Partly it’s because the old are bamboozled with complicated drug taking regimes. This polypharmacy involves a smorgasboard of pills which have to be taken in varying intervals.

A smart pill box knows when they’ve not been opened and sends automated reminders to the patient. If these messages go answered and the pill box still not opened, the device snitches on you to the clinician who then phones you directly.

Robots are getting old now too. The first robot assistant, the Arthrobot, made its debut in an operating theatre in 1984. Since then, robots have performed surgery on everything in degrees of complexity ranging from eyes and knees to neurosurgery.

Imperial College London created the PROBOT, which first performed prostate surgery at Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital in 1992. The robots are starting to take on human characteristics.

They’re starting to leave pieces of equipment in the patients, just like their human counterparts. This is all documented in Adverse Events in Robotic Surgery: A Retrospective Study of 14 Years of FDA Data. The authors from University of Illinois, Michigan Institute of Technology and Rush Medical Center compiled the report from MAUDE data (as in Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience).

In a study of 1.74 million robotic surgical procedures – mostly urological or gynaecological – the data recorded 8,061 device malfunctions, 1,391 patient injuries and 144 patient deaths. Adverse incidents included electrical arcing, sparking or charring of instruments and the falling of broken or burnt pieces into the patient’s body. Such incidents were said to have contributed to 119 injuries and one patient death.

“Clearly, operations utilising robotics are not without their risk, says Greg McEwen, partner at insurance law specialist BLM. As he points out, incidents relating to broken or left behind instruments […]

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