Healthcare providers turn to IoT, wearables to monitor patients at home
Last week, Manipal Hospitals said it has begun using a remote monitoring solution linked to Google-owned Fitbit devices to keep track of patients who are recuperating from high-risk surgeries. These devices record patient data such as the heart rate, oxygen saturation level, sleep quality, steps, and pain score, which are then shared with nurses and doctors with the help of an online monitoring solution offered by Singapore-based company ConnectedLife.
The monitoring solution can be customized for each patient, and can send the patients reminders to take their medicines or do physiotherapy on time. The solution can also send out alerts if it detects any major shift in a patient's physiological parameters. “Currently, the patient's data is being transferred directly to the doctor. The doctor checks every patient’s data but once the number of patients using the device scales up, we would like to look at other technologies that should help us with the excessive numbers,” said Dilip Jose, managing director, and chief executive of Manipal Hospitals.
The hospital is currently using the Fitbit-Connected Life solution in Bengaluru, but plans to expand it to all tier-1 branches in Delhi, Pune, and Goa.
According to Mudit Dandwate, co-founder and chief executive of Dozee, a Bengaluru-based health tech company, there is a real need for patients to be monitored from home, but technology application in India is still in early stages. “We have seen a clear increase in the demand for solutions for monitoring patients at home. The need was always there, the pandemic accelerated the acceptance of technology for remote and contactless patient monitoring. Both caregivers and patients are keen to have high quality monitored care provided at home,” he added.
Manipal Hospitals is just a case in point. Doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers across the country have begun warming up to the use of wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) products to monitor patient health, gauge response to procedures, track chronic illness and geriatric issues. Some of the IoT solutions even use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide early warnings to doctors based on a patient’s vitals.
Apollo Hospitals, for instance, has launched a smart in-patient room automation system that uses an AI-powered triaging system to continuously monitor a patient’s respiratory rate, heart rate, and other clinical parameters remotely. The firm has also deployed IoT-enabled smart health kiosks across multiple locations for the screening and diagnosis of various health parameters.
Dozee, which claims it provides remote patient management and early warning systems to over 300 hospitals in India, uses a combination of ballistocardiography (BCG) and AI algorithms to determine a risk score for patients and provide early health deterioration warning. BCG is a recording of micro-vibrations made by the human body due to the mechanical activity of the heart, like the pumping of blood.
The company does this through an IoT-enabled sensor sheet that is placed under a mattress on any bed. It can capture BCG, respiration rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, muscle twitches, temperature, and other body movements. “We understand that this type of monitoring could lead to an information overload for the doctors and we have designed our AI-based smart alerts system to ensure only relevant and timely escalations reach the doctor,” said Dandwate.
The growing demand for remote patient monitoring is part of a larger paradigm shift in healthcare seen across the globe. Ravinder Singh, vice president and head of consulting at CitiusTech, another healthcare technology company, explained, “There is growing emphasis on preventing the disease from progressing. That requires a lot of continuous closed-loop engagement with patients. That is where we are seeing connected devices coming into the picture and a push for remote monitoring solutions.”
That said, while the use of technology might be growing, security and privacy issues remain a concern that the industry needs to address.
A cloud security report by CheckPoint from January this year identified IoT devices as one of the weakest links in an IT network. According to Jose of Manipal Hospitals, the patient data captured and shared through the Fitbit wearable is safe. He explained that the hospital manages and maintains a Google Cloud Subscription in India, which houses and runs the ConnectedLife’s enterprise infrastructure and applications, and all patient data is under the hospital’s control.