How Edge Computing in Healthcare Is Transforming IoT Implementation

Pankaj Sharma

While most industries grapple with how to leverage Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, healthcare—as a whole—already has embarked on digital transformation to achieve operational efficiencies and improve the delivery of care.

Healthcare is leveraging connected technologies in various areas:

  • Patient Record Keeping: Electronic Medical Records (EMR) that have digitized paper files with digital documents.
  • Telemedicine: Video, voice, and data systems that allow patients to consult remotely with doctors.
    Operating Rooms: Next-generation robotics and video equipment that assist doctors in performing surgery.

  • Patient Monitoring: Connected medical devices—such as insulin pumps, smart lenses, and pacemakers—that relay data to doctors about patient conditions.
  • Wearables: Wearable devices and connected apps that track various health metrics—such as heart rate, the number of steps a patient has taken, and hydration—which can be used to help a healthcare provider look at these vital signs over time.
  • Asset Tracking: RFID technology enabling real-time location of both medical personnel and equipment.
  • Facility Utilization: Sensors and data analytics that help make the most efficient use of clinical facilities such as operating theaters.

It’s fair to say a revolution is underway in healthcare. Providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers have been early adopters of connected technologies. They’ve all recognized that connected technologies can enhance care in multiple ways.

IoT Goals

Healthcare providers are under pressure from rising costs and demand for healthcare, combined with reduced funding. There are also increasing expectations for improved patient safety and care quality.

Deploying IoT technologies in healthcare comes down to achieving one or more of three primary goals through digital transformation:

  • Create new revenue streams
  • Improve operational efficiency and reduce costs
  • Enhance patient experience

Achieving these goals typically involves a digital transformation plan to add new technologies, upgrade existing digital assets, and connect them together to produce business outcomes.

An integral piece of transformation, as more and more companies are discovering, is the creation of edge computing micro sites that put processing and analytics closer to where the action takes place—that being the “things” in IoT and their users. The reason for this is to avoid the latency in data transmissions between company headquarters, cloud infrastructures, corporate data centers, and branch locations.

In healthcare, latency is definitely a problem. As providers leverage tracking devices to monitor patient conditions and employ next-gen robotics in operating rooms, they cannot tolerate latency. That being the case, we will see more and more edge computing sites pop up in clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices.

Those sites also will play a role in securing data. This is a top priority for healthcare providers as they are responsible for protecting some of the most private, highly regulated data that flows in and out of networks.

More on the Way

Healthcare’s early steps to digitization included developments such as the use of handheld devices to read barcodes on patient wristbands, the adoption of radio-frequency identification (RFID) to track assets such as wheelchairs and movable patient beds, as well as electronic medical records (EMR) platforms that have digitized paper files and clipboards with digital documents.

There is much more to come in healthcare by way of connected technologies. For instance, pharmaceutical researchers are testing ingestible sensors that verify whether patients are taking their medications. When a pill dissolves in the stomach, it sends a signal to a sensor on the body that updates a smartphone app.

Meanwhile, Novartis subsidiary Alcon is testing non-invasive sensors in contact lenses to measure glucose levels in the tears of diabetes patients and send the data to a mobile device. Another smart lens project involves helping people suffering from presbyopia to restore their eye’s focus.

These science fiction-like advancements will add to the plethora of connected technologies already in use. And they will all require a robust infrastructure with reliable connectivity, data backup, and power management systems to ensure they function properly.

To ensure certainty in a connected world for your healthcare business, visit Connection’s APC Solutions Center or talk to your Account Manager.

Pankaj Sharma is the Executive Vice President, Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric. He is responsible for managing a large line of IT business through a diverse group of R&D leaders, offer management experts, and innovation and strategy teams. Pankaj is passionate about working with his employees to develop innovative solutions that help customers stay connected and productive in an ever-evolving technology landscape.