Growing IIoT Capabilities in the Healthcare and Medical IndustriesApril 09, 2021 by Sara McCaslin
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming an accepted part of medicine and healthcare worldwide and is changing the ability to treat patients.
What is IIoT?
IIoT is the internet of things for industry as opposed to personal use. IIoT is the interconnection of all things industrial and represents a flow of critical data that can be analyzed and integrated to support fast, informed decisions, flexible manufacturing, optimized workflows, and more.
IIoT is heavily dependent on sensors, high-bandwidth wireless data transmission, and applications to support communication, analysis, visualization, and more. It should come as no surprise that IIoT is rapidly becoming an invaluable tool in the healthcare and medical industries.
IIoT in the Healthcare Sector
According to Statista, the worldwide market for IIoT in healthcare is expected to grow to over 135 billion USD by 2025, compared to 24 billion USD in 2016.
IIoT can be leveraged as a powerful healthcare tool and has much in common with IIoT in factories and warehouses. Image used courtesy of PublicDomainPictures
There are several reasons why IIoT has been readily accepted in the healthcare sector, beginning with its ability to reduce the probability of medical errors by minimizing manual data entry. This makes it easier to verify a patient’s identity and facilitates more effective tracking of patient information and treatment.
IIoT can also increase the quality of care for patients by reducing the frequency of preventable deaths and providing real-time monitoring, especially for the elderly and disabled. It also supports sharing critical patient information, including characteristics such as blood pressure, glucose levels, and imaging.
Integrating IIoT in Healthcare
IIoT in healthcare involves a wide variety of applications and devices. Wearable devices have become key in many IIoT applications, including heart monitors, glucose monitors, EKG monitors, and tools for at-home sleep studies.
Such devices allow users to track their health conditions and alert both users and medical health professionals when values deviate from the norm. In addition, that data can be stored to track conditions over time and inform the decisions of caregivers.
IIoT in healthcare is already being used to enhance patient safety and reduce errors in medical records and patient treatment. Image used courtesy of Mirko Sajkov
Modern IIoT medical imaging equipment can transmit data far faster and store it in the Cloud, making it more accessible to healthcare providers in a timely manner. In addition, experts predict that IIoT medical imaging will aid in sharing data and analyzing and providing diagnoses using machine learning and artificial intelligence.
There are also developments in robotic pharmacies, such as robots used for automating tasks—for instance, storage and retrieval or pipetting—as well as other areas where medical automation is proving useful.
IIoT Devices and Tools
There are four key aspects of successful IIoT implementation in a healthcare environment:
- Transmitting data
- Storing and sharing data via the Cloud
- Analyzing data
- Seamlessly transmitting data across platforms
Here is how continuous glucose monitors and smart infusion pumps, to name a few, are meeting these standards.
IIoT Device: Continuous Glucose Monitors
Continuous glucose monitors are an excellent example of an IIoT-empowered medical device. There are a variety of manufacturers, including Dexcom, Medtronic, and Abbott Laboratories.
The Dexcom G6 CGM System uses a small sensor beneath the skin and wirelessly transmits that data for storage. The data can be tracked in real-time on smart devices, including phones, tablets, and watches, or shared with up to 10 people. As with most IIoT devices, it includes a sensor, transmitter, and receiver.
The Dexcom G6 CGM System allows users to track blood glucose levels on their smartphones. Image used courtesy of Dexcom
The sensor takes glucose readings from the user’s interstitial fluid and wirelessly transmits the data using a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transceiver. The receiver is a BLE-enabled display device, which is either a G6 CGM receiver or a Bluetooth-enabled smart device with the appropriate mobile application installed.
Data analysis takes place on the receiver or smart device, but it can also be further processed via Dexcom CLARITY. This online software package makes it easier to transmit data to healthcare providers.
IIoT Tool: Smart Infusion Pumps
Wireless infusion pumps are another example of IIoT in the healthcare industry. Infusion pumps provide patients with medicine and nutrition in the form of IV fluids. Infusion pumps can present a host of challenges to healthcare workers, including alarms indicating all of the fluid has been administered or that a blockage exists.
With wireless infusion pumps, IV administration is oversight, not to mention the relative ease with which software and firmware updates can be applied.
Among the leading manufacturers of wireless infusion pumps are Alaris, B. Braun, Q-Core Medical, and Baxter International. The Baxter Smart IV Pump, for example, is integrated with a patient’s EMR (electronic medical records) to transmit data about treatment and issues for automated documentation as well as receive data about the patient’s medication orders.
In addition to access to drug libraries and automated updates for those libraries, the Smart IV Pump provides an overview of analytics for multiple patients in a clinical setting.
The Baxter Smart IV Pump combined with the Spectrum IQ Infusion System leverages IIoT technology to support patient safety and aid healthcare providers. Image used courtesy of Baxter
While locating detailed electronic specifications of this particular pump may be difficult, it does have sensors (including force and pressure sensors) to monitor pump conditions and detect issues with blockages or an empty IV bag. Also included in this smart infusion pump would be both a receiver and a transmitter.
The wireless receiver accepts information related to patient treatment, updates medication libraries, and updates software. The wireless transmitter sends data to the EMR system as well as notifications and alarms to healthcare providers responsible for the patient.
Medical IIoT and COVID-19
The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in more emphasis on IIoT capabilities in healthcare settings. The ability to wirelessly monitor, record, and set alerts for more than vital signs helps protect patients and providers during a viral outbreak. The ability to quickly and seamlessly transmit patient data to the healthcare providers using Cloud capabilities is also vital during a pandemic.
Wirelessly sharing data makes it possible for doctors and researchers to track trends and spot outbreaks more rapidly. The use of robotics has also been key to efforts involving sanitation and item delivery, such as linens or food.
IIoT in healthcare and medicine has become widely accepted across the world by providers and patients alike. Wearable devices support users’ health and enhance the type and amount of information available to their doctors. Similarly, smart clinical tools make treating patients less prone to error and thus safer for everyone involved.