Home IoT healthcare consists of two pieces: telemedicine and cloud-connected or IoT medical devices. Telemedicine refers to home-based, visual, two-way communication with a healthcare provider, and can be via PC, tablet or mobile phone over a wired or wireless connection. IoT medical devices regularly send vital signs to the cloud for access by those healthcare providers. Both are necessary to broadly treat chronic and temporary, acute conditions via IoT.
Chronic conditions refer to long-term health issues and include heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, severe, hypertension and kidney disease. Chronic conditions require medical equipment to properly monitor the patient at home, including vital signs monitors, electrocardiograms, pulse oximeters, glucose monitors and oxygen equipment. While most of these devices currently are not IoT, there is a trend toward it. Using inexpensive measuring devices connected to a phone or tablet is helping to drive home IoT healthcare adoption.
Home IoT healthcare refers to home monitoring of patients of all ages after their release from the hospital. This care be post-surgery or for hospital stays brought on by a variety of medical conditions. The post-hospital patient’s vital signs must be monitored, and there must be a visit to the doctor afterward, although the care is temporary. IoT-enabled vital signs monitors and telemedicine appointments should become increasingly popular, especially among older patients.
Home health patients: IoT vs. non-IoT
The majority of home healthcare patients do not currently use IoT. They visit their doctor when it is recommended or necessary, and if they have any medical devices in the home, they are not connected to the cloud. The fact that so many home healthcare patients are over 65 and the less technically-savvy portion of the population, makes extending the penetration of IoT a particular challenge.
Two trends are helping to drive IoT going forward. One is COVID which is leveling the field between the home and the doctor’s office. Second is the decreasing cost and increasing ease of devices and internet availability in the home environment.
In the USA, the forecast for home IoT healthcare patients as a proportion of total home health patients shows the COVID influenced boom we expect from government regulatory changes. In 2019, only about 20% or 683,000 home health patients used IoT, cloud-connected medical devices or contacting healthcare providers via telemedicine. In 2020, that is expected to increase by 228,000 to 25.1% of patients.
In the past, telemedicine required expensive equipment in the home, including dedicated cameras and networks. That made insurers hesitant to approve the expenditures in all but special circumstances. However, the increasing availability of cheap reliable devices and services in the home, including smartphones with high-resolution cameras and reliable cellular and broadband networks, has made telemedicine increasingly inexpensive to insurers by transferring costs from insurers to patients who already have these devices and services at hand for their own personal use.