How the Internet of Things can remedy cost-intensive healthcare

Reducing healthcare costs for hospitals and clinics, as well as the patients they treat, requires incredible foresight. A recent Gallup poll found more than one-fifth of Americans believe healthcare costs are the single most pressing matter impacting the industry today. That said, finding ways to trim back costs intelligently can often sound like scaling back quality for the sake of a few cents, which no one wants.

We've discussed in the past places in healthcare administration and patient relations in desperate need of an efficiency upgrade to continue offering the best services to the sick and the injured. Can a cost-effective saving grace come in the form of a technological revolution already underway? Will the Internet of Things, a burgeoning network of interconnected smart devices, help the healthcare sector rein in costs and, in the process, save lives?

Bursting the cost bubble
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities spend an inordinate amount of money treating patients on-site. However, missed appointments and smaller outpatient assessments can still cost these clinics considerable resources for little to no financial return. In a June 2015 study, Goldman Sachs wrote decentralizing healthcare with IoT-enabled devices can help, especially because the trend will drive technology costs down.

The result? Goldman Sachs estimated a more than $300 billion drop in costs to the U.S. healthcare system once "widespread use of digital therapies" has become the norm. But what do "digital therapies" look like? And can these advanced processes do more for healthcare than traditional services?

Unconnected medical devices requiring manual support can sometimes obscure what's most important in healthcare.Unconnected medical devices requiring manual support can sometimes obscure what's most important in healthcare.

Increasing access to patients
On the one hand, IoT technology monitoring a patient's health from his or her home can reduce administrative cost expended on resources if the individual comes in to see a doctor unnecessarily. Even if there's nothing to worry about, nurses and doctors will still need to spend time filling out paperwork and performing diagnostics before letting the patient go. That's probably why demand for implantable medical devices is on the rise, according to the Freedonia Group.

"More than 9 out of 10 nurses agree they spend too much time operating burdensome technology."

But IoT technology can offer more than cut-and-dry austerity measures – in fact, it can create closer doctor-patient relationships by automating medical data collection and distribution. According to a study by the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, current unconnected medical technology actually detracts from the nursing. More than 9 out of 10 nurses agree they spend too much time operating burdensome technology, time they'd otherwise use one-on-one with their patients. Additionally, half of respondents saw instances where the lack of coordination between medical devices led to a "medical error."

In this way, interoperability between IoT-connected medical devices cuts administrative costs, puts healthcare resources to best use and could potentially avoid glitches that risk patients' well-being. Hospitals and other healthcare providers that wish to see these benefits should begin incorporating cutting-edge IT throughout their facilities that helps accelerate IoT adoption.

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