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What Nurses Need to Know About the Internet of Things in Healthcare

Technology is integral to nursing, with nurses using multiple pieces of electronic equipment to perform their tasks, monitor patients and communicate.

What Is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of devices connected to each other via the internet. The word "things" in IoT stands for objects with an IP address capable of transmitting data. Appliances, cars, thermostats and security cameras are examples of items that use IoT technology.

How Does IoT Work?

In a nutshell, the following four steps outline how IoT works:

  • Data Collection – Sensors in IoT devices collect data.
  • Data Transmission – Cellular or satellite networks, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wide-area networks (WAN) or low-power wide area networks (LPWAN) transmit the data for processing.
  • Data Processing – Data is sorted, classified or calculated to convert it into useful information.
  • Data Display via User Interface – The user interface (UI) enables human interaction with a machine or device. The UI may consist of a screen, pages, icons, buttons or voice command, as well as software and applications installed on computers and smartphones.

What Are the Applications of IoT in Healthcare?

The healthcare industry has adopted IoT for a wide variety of applications. Examples include:

Voice-Activated Speakers: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angles is piloting Amazon Echo devices in hospital rooms to give patients a hands-free option for contacting nurses, watching TV or listening to music. Powering the Echo is Alexa-based Aiva, a voice-controlled personal assistant for use in hospitals. With verbal commands, patients can call nurses for assistance, request pain medication or change TV channels.

Patient Monitoring Technology: Remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems collect, interpret and relay a patient's physiological data to nurses. RPM delivery systems provide nurses with real-time health data. Access to real-time data can help improve outcomes and reduce costs in healthcare. Examples of RPM technology include a voice app that reminds patients to take their insulin and digital blood pressure cuffs that send a patient's blood pressure reading and heart rate to a nurse.

Wearable Devices: Devices such as watches, clothing, belts and glasses are embedded with micro-sensors that enable long-term monitoring. Nurses may observe a patient's environment, vital signs or fitness.

How Is IoT Changing and Helping Improve Healthcare?

The implementation of IoT is streamlining healthcare by helping nurses attend to patients in a timely manner. In addition, IoT supplies nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals with critical data that helps them provide appropriate interventions, increase productivity and improve outcomes.

The remote monitoring capabilities of IoT may prevent frequent emergency room visits, reduce hospital readmissions or alert nurses to falls or failures to get out of bed. IoT can help patients manage chronic conditions at home by:

  • Alerting heart patients to arrhythmia
  • Delivering medications through an infusion pump
  • Keeping diabetics aware of their glucose levels
  • Reminding patients to take medications

What Is the Future of IoT in Healthcare?

In the future, IoT devices will be smaller and smarter. Through remote monitoring, nurses can help patients in distress for a faster emergency response. The introduction of 5G networks will speed up data transmission as well as offer better data analytics and complex imaging so nurses can use the information to make diagnoses and develop treatment plans.

IoT in nursing will continue to advance the practice. By highlighting health trends and pinpointing problems with predictive analytics and algorithms, IoT assists nurses with preventive healthcare measures and early disease detection. As telehealth nursing and home healthcare become more commonplace, IoT will alter traditional methods of caring for, observing and treating patients. Nurses must embrace new technology and ensure that they are prepared with the skills and knowledge they need to provide optimal patient care.

Learn more about EMU's online RN to BSN program.


Sources:

Forbes: A Simple Explanation of the Internet of Things

Verdict Medical Devices: Bringing the Internet of Things to Healthcare

Norton: What Is the Internet of Things? How the IoT Works, and More

Business Insider: The Internet of Things Is Changing Healthcare — Here's Where It Could Go Next

IoT Agenda: Internet of Things (IoT) definition

Medium: IoT Explained — How Does an IoT System Actually Work?

Trackinno: How IoT Works - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Cedars-Sinai: Cedars-Sinai Taps Alexa for Smart Hospital Room Pilot

Business Insider: The Technology, Devices, and Benefits of the Growing Remote Patient Monitoring Market

Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News: 5 Examples of IoT in Healthcare

NCBI: Wearable Devices in Medical Internet of Things: Scientific Research and Commercially Available Devices

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