Guest: The Promise of IoT for Healthcare

The practice of medicine has become more data-driven than ever, and the U.S. healthcare system is in desperate need of innovation.

Dr. Brent Mulder
Senior Director
Spectrum Health Innovations

Guest blogger, Dr. Brent Mulder, PhD, MBA serves as the Senior Director of Spectrum Health Innovations LLC, a subsidiary of the Spectrum Health System, dedicated to assisting staff members with the development of promising new health care technologies.

Smart, connected devices are being created at a feverish pace to monitor, measure, and alert us to ever-changing conditions both externally and internally. The Internet of Things (IoT) is composed of a wide-array of sensor-laden devices that connect to the Internet, transmitting an endless stream of information that can be analyzed and acted on. From sensors that adjust the home thermostat to blood-glucose sensing contact lenses, the range of applications for IoT appears to be limitless, promising exciting new ways to enrich our lives, and perhaps, solve some of healthcare’s current problems.

The U.S. healthcare system is in desperate need of innovation. Hospitals are under pressure to achieve the ‘Triple Aim’ to improve the experience of care and the health of populations, while simultaneously lowering costs. In response, hospitals are measuring a multitude of clinical and quality indicators in a quest to achieve this goal. The practice of medicine has become more data-driven than ever before with clinicians assessing vital signs, clinical tests, electrical signals, and a wide variety of images to ensure the best care for their patients. As the list of data points continues to grow so does the amount of documentation, much to physicians’ dismay. This is where IoT can be of tremendous value.

IoT startups envision the development of enabling technologies that provide real-time information for immediate decision-making while seamlessly transferring collected data into a patient’s electronic medical record. Additionally, IoT is working outside the hospital walls where patient data is much harder to come by, but equally as important. Engaging patients/consumers in the active and/or passive collection of their health data via a wristband, smartphone, or other device can help bridge this gap and provide crucial data to clinicians for proactively addressing and preventing health crises.

Much has been written about how healthcare needs to transform from a fee-for-service to a value-based model, but this will require a paradigm shift in how each of us participates in maintaining our own health. Specifically, shifting from episodic care and seeking healthcare only in times of crisis, to a situation in which health is a lifelong pursuit that involves a closer, continuous relationship with our healthcare providers. Using IoT to monitor health in order to more effectively manage or potentially prevent diseases just makes sense, clinically and economically. A recent McKinsey report predicts that IoT could provide hundreds of billions of dollars of societal benefit due to the improved health of users and decreased cost of care for patients with chronic diseases.1 In addition, IoT devices will be of great value for understanding and improving population health where vast amounts of data are needed to identify potential trends. Imagine the economic impact of an individual’s health and multiply it by a population. This is the promise IoT holds, the promise of a healthy future.

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Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, and is a Seamless Consortium Partner. Additional information is available at spectrumhealth.org


1. McKinsey and Company (June 2015) McKinsey Global Institute. The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype.