Applications of the Internet of Things in the Medical Industry (1) — Digital Hospitals
The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is becoming increasingly common in the healthcare industry. The primary applications of IoT in the field of intelligent medicine include the visualization of material management, digitization of medical information, and digitization of medical processes.
Medical Equipment and Drug Monitoring and Management
With the help of RFIDs, IoT has begun to find broader applications in the field of medical material management visualization. IoT with RFIDs can help avoid public health problems by aiding in the production, distribution, and tracking of medical devices and medicine. This increases the quality of medical treatment while reducing management costs.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the amount of counterfeit medicines in the world amounts to more than 10% of sales of drugs worldwide. Data from the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association shows that, in China alone, at least 200,000 people die each year as a result of wrong or inappropriately used medication. Between 11% and 26% of patients use their medications incorrectly. This includes around 10% of wrongly prescribed medications.
Therefore, RFID technology will play an essential role in the tracking and monitoring of drugs and equipment and the regulation of the market for medical products.
Specifically, IoT technology in the field of material management has applications in the following areas:
Medical Device and Pharmaceuticals Anti-Counterfeiting
The label attached to a product will have a unique identity that is extremely difficult to forge. This will play an essential role in verification of information and anti-counterfeiting, proving an effective counter-measure against medical fraud.
For example, it will be possible to transmit drug information to a public database from which a patient or hospital can check the contents of the label against the records in the database to easily identify potential counterfeits.
Complete Real-Time Monitoring
From research to circulation, the entire production process can utilize RFID tags to accomplish comprehensive product monitoring. This is especially important when the product gets shipped. A reader installed on the production line can automatically identify each drug’s information and transmit it to the database as the product gets packaged. During the distribution process, any intermediate information gets recorded at any time meaning that it is possible to monitor from end to end.
Medical Waste Information Management
Cooperation by hospitals and transportation companies will help establish a traceable medical waste tracking system using RFID technology. This will ensure that the medical waste gets properly transported to the treatment plant and will prevent the illegal dumping of biohazardous medical waste.
Internet of Things has broad application prospects in the field of medical information management. At present, the demand for medical information management in hospitals is mainly in the following aspects: identification, sample recognition, and medical record identification. Identification includes patient identification, physician identification, sample identification (including drug identification), medical equipment identification, laboratory identification, and medical record identification (including symptoms and identification of disease).
We can divide specific applications into the following areas:
Patient Information Management
The patient’s family medical history, the patient’s past medical history, various examinations, medical records, drug allergies and other electronic health files can assist doctors to develop treatment programs. Doctors and nurses can measure the patient’s vital signs, and during treatments such as chemotherapy, they can use real-time monitoring information to eliminate the use of wrong drugs or wrong needles and can automatically remind nurses to carry out drug checks and other work.
Medical Emergency Management
There are some unusual circumstances, such as when there are large numbers of casualties, an inability to reach family members, or the critically ill. In such scenarios, RFID technologies’ reliable and efficient storage and testing methods will help with rapid identification of relevant details such as the patient’s name, age, blood type, emergency contact, and previous medical history. This will speed up admission procedures for emergency patients and leave more precious time for treatment.
Of particular note is the installation of 3G video equipment in ambulances. As patients are on their way to the hospital, the emergency room is already getting introduced to the patient’s condition and can effectively prepare for emergency rescue. If the location is very far from the hospital, there is a probability of using remote medical imaging systems as part of the emergency rescue process.
RFID technology can automate the whole chain of storage, use, and inspection to reduce the required working hours and streamline processes that previously got conducted on paper. It can help prevent stock shortages and facilitate the recall of drugs. It can also help avoid confusion arising from similar drug names or dosage amount and dosage type. Overall it will strengthen drug management and ensure that medicines get provided and prepared promptly.
Patient Information Management
The application of RFID technology to blood bank management can effectively avoid the disadvantages of barcodes having limited information capacity and can realize the goal of contact-less identification, reduce blood contamination, realize multi-target identification and improve data collection efficiency.
Fighting Pharmaceutical Error
Information management in the pharmacy will help to ensure that medicine is correctly distributed and received. To date, pharmacy information management already gets implemented in such aspects as giving prescriptions, adjusting dosages, nursing administration, patient use of medication, efficacy tracing, inventory management, purchase of supplies, preservation of environmental conditions, and determination of shelf life.
It is also used to confirm which type of drug gets prescribed to the patient, and to not only record which drug the patient is taking and whether or not they’ve taken in it but even which lot number the drug came from. This helps avoid the possibility of patients missing scheduled medications, and in the event of a quality control issue, affected patients get identified quickly.
Medical Equipment and Drug Tracking
By accurately recording items and patient identities and providing strong support for accident handling, available medical devices and medicine are accounted for. By accurately recording basic information such as product use, adverse events, areas where quality control problems may occur, patients involved and locations of unused products, we can track and handle bad products.
Connected Information Sharing
Form a well-developed and integrated medical network through the sharing of medical information and records. On the one hand, authorized doctors can check the patient’s medical history, history of illness, treatment and insurance details. Patients will also have the freedom to choose or replace doctors and hospitals. On the other hand, small town and rural hospitals can seamlessly connect with central hospitals for information and timely expert advice, as well as arranging referrals and receive training.
Newborn Anti-Kidnapping System
At a large general hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department or a women and children’s hospital, combining mother and child identification management, and infant security management will prevent unsupervised access by outsiders. In particular, every newborn should receive an RFID anklet that uniquely identifies the baby and has a unique correspondence with the mother’s information. To determine if the family has the correct baby, the RFID anklet only needs to get checked by a nurse or other staff member.
Through real-time monitoring and tracking of hospital medical devices and patients, the system will automatically call for help in the event of patient distress. It will also prevent patients from leaving the hospital on their own and will help to prevent the damage or theft of expensive devices and protect temperature-sensitive drugs and laboratory samples.
Technical Problems Facing Medical IoT
In the medical field, we still need to address many technical problems facing IoT. These problems include:
Dynamic Networking and Node Mobility Management in Large-Scale Networks
When there is an expansion of the monitoring system to cover residential communities, cities, or even entire countries, the size of the network will be overwhelming, and monitoring nodes and base stations alike will all have to be mobile to some degree. Therefore, we have to design an appropriate network topology management structure and network mobility management methods.
Data Completeness and Data Compression
Nodes will sometimes have to conduct monitoring for 24 hours a day, collecting a massive amount of information that needs to be stored using a compression algorithm to reduce storage and transmission volume. However, traditional data compression algorithms are too costly for sensor nodes. Furthermore, compression algorithms cannot lose the original data. Otherwise, the system could misdiagnose the patient’s condition.
Wireless sensor network nodes form a self-organized network which is vulnerable to attacks, which is obviously problematic when dealing with patient information that must be kept confidential. The computing power of a sensor node is extremely insufficient. Hence traditional security and encryption technology are not applicable to these scenarios. Therefore, we must design an encryption algorithm suitable to the capabilities of a sensor node.
The application of IoT is increasing day by day in every aspect of the healthcare industry. In this article, we have explored various applications of IoT in different verticals of the medical industry.
Continue reading Part 2 of this article.