The internet of things (IoT) era promises big things for the healthcare sector. But are patients and caregivers prepared to harness its full potential—both to improve the quality of care and lighten the caregiver burden? The Deloitte 2016 Survey of Health Care Consumers took a closer look at this issue, and the findings are promising: “Patients of all demographics—even seniors—are at least amenable to technology-enabled care.” Wondering what the IoT means for you as a caregiver? Here’s what you need to know.
About the IoT
The IoT is garnering a lot of attention these days. But what, exactly, does it mean? Writes The Future of Work author Jacob Morgan for Forbes, “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of….The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.”
Indeed, the IoT is vast, and growing by the day. According to Gartner, Inc., more than 8.4 billion connected “things” were in use in 2017—up 31 percent from the previous year. Expected to reach 20.4 billion by 2020, the growth shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
The IoT and Healthcare
Healthcare is one of the most exciting industries being impacted by the IoT, but there’s been uncertainty about the degree to which patients and caregivers will be on board with it. Proposes Deloitte, “It’s one thing for health care providers to implement new IoT technology—and quite another for patients and caregivers to embrace it.”
The good news? The latest data indicated that not only are consumers open to IoT-enhanced care but also that caregivers are a “key population” for adoption. In fact, according to Aging 2.0, the most rapidly evolving sector of aging technology is home caregiving. Specifically, caregivers say they are likely to use sensor technology, remote monitoring technology and telemedicine.
How the IoT Can Help Caregivers
A major area of concern for many caregivers is the safety of their loved ones—particularly when they’re not available. Enter IoT sensors, wearables and other technologies.
Whether you’re worried about a loved one falling and being unable to reach the telephone, missing an important medication, or having adequate hydration levels, IoT technology offers monitoring solutions aimed at helping seniors stay safe and independent while providing critical caregiver support. And this is just the start. Looking for insights into everything from your aging loved one’s bathroom activities to air quality in his/her home? IoT offers all this and much more.
The best part? The technology is still in its infancy. Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity told the New York Times, “In three to five years, aging will be transformed. We are in the early stages of seeing what technology can do.”
Even the most technology-resistant seniors can be brought around by user-friendly technology with clear applications to their daily lives. Consider Marianne Von Ruden, for example. After a remote vital sign monitoring system identified her alarmingly high blood pressure levels and contacted her healthcare team, the 77-year-old was rushed to the hospital. “The system has already saved my life,” Von Ruden told the New York Times. “Assisted living can’t even monitor you as well medically. And I don’t have to keep running to the doctor’s office.”
For caregivers accustomed to bearing the full responsibility of monitoring and responding (in addition to all of the many other demands of caregiving), meanwhile, this same technology represents both an invaluable resource and unprecedented peace of mind.
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