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After Big Data-Keep Healthcare Ahead with Internet of Things
August 17, 2015

After Big Data-Keep Healthcare Ahead with Internet of Things

Howard Chen is a radiology chief resident at University of Pennsylvania in the Healthcare Quality and Leadership pathway. Howard graduated from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School and was the recipient of the 2014 Imaging Informatics Open-Source Leadership Award from the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine. His peer-reviewed papers investigate the role of data science in patient care, radiology education, and computational genomics. Howard writes about creating value for patient care through informatics and innovation. He tweets under @howardpchen.


Despite the clear use case of early alarm, the IoT goes much further. Here I outline several other areas in which IoT are impacting health. 


Efficiency and Quality 

Many hospitals stockpile inventory because it is difficult to keep timely count of every bar of soap, every pair of nonslip socks, every bag of normal saline. Existing efforts using RFID or barcode have made it possible to reduce medication error and improve accounting. IoT takes this technology one step further. In a world with universally connected inventory utilizing small low-cost chips, a dashboard can keep real-time accounting of supplies and automatically place orders for restock when items run low.   

IoT can also improve the uptime of expensive hospital equipment. A hospital's typical CT and MRI machines are high-cost equipment. When such an equipment breaks down, not only are patients unable to get their important diagnostic exam, it also creates a backlog and the hospital loses revenue. Rather than routine maintenance, some hospitals have moved to using internet-enabled diagnostic tools that are permanently installed in the scanners to diagnose small problems before they become big problems. 

Finally, rather than relying on provider-reported flaws on medical devices, a Silicon Valley startup company has developed smart cardiac catheters which automatically detect flaws and send quality improvement data directly from the catheter to the manufacturer. In the world of IoT, medical devices leverage the power of Big Data to improve their quality.  

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