The Internet of Things: What it means for healthier cities

Imagine a city in which the health and care of citizens are supported by smart devices and sensors, whether in homes, hospitals, or community centers. Imagine technology that enables ubiquitous mobile experiences for healthier lifestyles of citizens.

For example, sensors in prescription pill containers could help monitor whether patients are taking the right dosage of their medication at the right time. Data from a patient’s home glucose or blood pressure monitor could be sent to the patient’s care team so they could track trends or follow up when readings are out of range. Near-real-time alerts from wearables with an “emergency” button could be sent to not only emergency services, but also a patient’s entire support system—clinicians, family members, and community resources. And data brought together from various sources could track and forecast individual and community health trends, predict services needs, and help identify the most effective treatment options—to name just a few of the possibilities.

This future is starting now. As cities update their infrastructures, they’re taking advantage of today’s technologies to enable new ways to keep people healthy—within and outside clinics and hospitals. They’re taking advantage of what we call the Internet of Your Things (IoT) to support healthier lifestyles and preventive health, build “smart hospitals,” and rethink community-care delivery. In 2014 alone, technology investments related to IoT will total nearly $2 trillion, and of that, $132 billion in investments is expected in healthcare according to forecasts by IDC.

Simply put, IoT is the collection and use of data from a variety of sources such as machines, sensors, and smart devices. Be it at a hospital, a home, or any other setting, IoT enables health professionals to preconfigure devices so that they respond automatically to predetermined indicators or patient status—for example, as a patient falls asleep, room temperature and lighting are adjusted accordingly.

Organizations like Kaiser Permanente in the US are taking advantage of IoT to empower patients and proactively help them manage their chronic conditions wherever they are. Working with Cognizant, Kaiser Permanente is prototyping a new remote patient-monitoring service providing physicians an unprecedented remote view of patients’ vital signs. It tracks data from mobile devices—such as blood pressure- and glucose-monitoring devices—that are in a patient’s home.

Data can also be pushed to and pulled from smart medical devices to alert healthcare providers of key information around quality, compliance, and performance. This is the vision of Aerocrine—a Swedish provider of clinical devices for improving management and care of patients with inflammatory airway diseases—as they start to pilot the collection of telemetry data from devices in real time. By doing so, they will become more proactive in their customer support and help physicians improve patient outcomes cost-effectively and efficiently.

Another great example of how IoT is being used to help improve not only the quality of care, but also resource allocation is Epimed Solutions in Brazil. Watch this video to hear Dr. Jorge Salluh, Chief Operating Officer at Epimed Solutions, discuss how they’re utilizing data from various sources for predictive clinical analytics as well as to monitor the performance of departments.

IoT will enable near-real-time transmission of collected and contextualized patient data so that the right information is sent to the right care team members. This means health professionals can respond quickly to changes in patient conditions, and care teams can collaborate more efficiently and effectively. IoT will also enable family members to monitor their loved ones remotely—checking to see if they’ve taken their medications and completed their physical therapy exercises for the day, as well as being alerted if there is an accident or fall. And city authorities will be able to not only provide healthier places to live, they’ll be able to share integrated, meaningful data with providers and other government entities across the healthcare ecosystem to help improve public health and clinical outcomes, drive prevention campaigns, and enable continuous transformation in healthcare.

It’s a bright new future for cities and health that’s starting right now. Microsoft and CityNext partners like Mazik Global are collaborating with innovative city and health authorities on this journey. Stay tuned for more stories about how IoT is helping them make a real impact for better health in cities around the world.

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