In the past, healthcare was predominantly associated with surgical interventions and in-person medical consultations. However, the contemporary healthcare landscape is undergoing a profound transformation, largely driven by the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) as a central force. In this evolving healthcare paradigm, technology is playing a pivotal role in reshaping three crucial pillars of healthcare: access, quality, and affordability.
In a panel discussion on The buzz of the Internet of Medical Things held at BW Healthcare World 30 Under 30Summit and Awards, 2023, industry leaders shared their insights on how IoT is reshaping access to healthcare, enhancing service quality, and ensuring affordability without compromising care quality.
Sidharth Srinivasan, CEO of Lupin Digital Health, emphasised that the focus has shifted towards preventative care. The aim is to keep individuals out of hospitals by remotely monitoring their health. For instance, cardiac patients can now be monitored continuously, even as they go about their daily lives. Applications have been developed to assess conditions like pedal oedema, a sign of heart failure, by simply taking a photo of the patient's feet. This data can be instantly shared with doctors, enabling them to adjust treatment plans remotely.
Sidharth added that this shift is especially prominent in regions like the United States, where incentives for reducing hospital readmissions drive the adoption of remote patient monitoring.
Talking about how technology is helping healthcare to become more preventive, Lokesh Prasad, MD, AliveCor, underlined IoT's potential to transform healthcare on multiple fronts. In India, he said, “We’ve done some, you know, large-scale studies in India, as well as commercial studies in India, etcetera, etcetera. The data coming from these studies is telling us that almost eight to 10 per cent of people walking into a PHC, CHC Health and Wellness Centre kind of setup need a cardiologist to follow up."
Prasad further reiterated, "Conducting thousands of screening programmes nationwide brings the preventive dimension into sharp focus. However, what's even more critical is the predictive aspect.”
Sharing insights on preventive healthcare and the intelligence of data, Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO of GOQii, echoed Sidharth's sentiments, emphasising the growing importance of prevention in healthcare. IoT, Vishal noted, is instrumental in collecting vast amounts of data. The key lies in extracting intelligence from this data to drive preventive measures. However, data alone often falls short.
“Our experience with data reveals that it's not just about having data; it's about using it to motivate individuals to make the right choices. Incentives play a pivotal role in driving behavior. This is where incentivisation, gamification, and motivation come into play. Just like how cashback incentives drove the adoption of digital payments, the health industry needs a similar incentive layer,” he concurred.
Delving into how healthcare delivery institutions and doctors perceive remote monitoring devices and apps, Gondal highlighted that the acceptance of these technologies varies, particularly among Indian healthcare providers, many of which are publicly traded companies with quarterly targets.
He noted that these institutions face a challenge when investing in technologies with potential long-term benefits. However, he pointed out two significant trends. Firstly, there is early adoption among practitioners who aim to be global pioneers, particularly in fields like IoT-enabled pacemakers and insulin pumps, which continuously monitor and update patient data. Such devices have garnered more significant interest among Indian practitioners.
Speaking on the prevailing belief that reducing patient footfall may negatively impact their bottom line, Gondal stressed the need for hospitals and doctors to shift towards outcome-based metrics rather than traditional volume-based metrics. He pointed to models like Kaiser in the United States, which prioritise outcomes over patient volume. Hospitals and doctors should perceive technology as a tool that enhances patient care and outcomes, rather than competition.
From the perspective of hospitals and healthcare providers regarding partnerships with technology companies, Srinivasan pointed out that hospitals are more receptive to partnerships when they see a clear value proposition and when technology companies assure that they do not intend to compete with them.
IoT is fundamentally transforming healthcare by shifting the focus towards prevention, remote monitoring, and early intervention. Healthcare institutions and practitioners are gradually recognising these technologies as partners rather than competitors, particularly when incentives align with better patient outcomes.
As IoT continues to revolutionise healthcare, it holds the promise of a future where healthcare is not only accessible and affordable but also prioritises prevention and proactive care.