“Everything that can be automated will be automated”
— Robert Cannon
All ‘things’ that exchange data mutually are referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) [1-3]. It is not a technology in itself, but rather a collective name for a network of ‘smart’ devices. The IoT facilitates machine-to-human and machine-to-machine communication.
Applications & benefits
From smart activity trackers, scales, blood pressure sensors, pacemakers, domestic equipment to social networks; they are all part of future healthcare. Using these devices, the IoT infrastructure supports monitoring, coaching, compliance and numerous other healthcare processes [4,5]. The IoT makes it possible to collect and analyse healthcare data quickly and accurately, thus improving patient outcomes [6,7].
The IoT is growing. Consumers are connected more than ever before and each have, on average, four devices that are connected with the cloud. Worldwide, 127 new devices are linked to the Internet every second . By 2020, this will be over 50 billion . The global IoT market is expected to grow from 3.9 trillion USD in 2015 to 11.1 trillion USD in 2025  (an annual growth of 11%). Healthcare will account for a market share worth 154 billion USD. The applications are mainly limited to the use of data (including real-time) and small-scale, smart solutions. A number of essential steps will have to be taken before the IoT can be implemented on a large-scale, organisation-wide or system-wide scale [2,9].
The growth of the IoT in healthcare is being driven by the following factors:
- Increasing connectivity and the number of connected devices [10,11].
- An increasing shortage of healthcare staff, due partly to an ageing population and increasing healthcare demands [12,13].
- Technological developments such as Big Data and Cloud Computing are enhancing the potential of the IoT. Furthermore, the sensors used are getting better and smaller, thus increasing the application potential [11,14,15].
Growing connectivity and improved data infrastructure
Increasing pressure on the healthcare system
New technological capabilities
Increasing emphasis on privacy sensitivity
Limited digital skills
Limiting guidelines, legislation and regulations
Several obstacles must be overcome in order to unlock the full potential of the IoT. The biggest challenge is to be able to offer users both safety and privacy [4,14,16-18]. The complex network in which devices, processes and people communicate with each other makes security difficult. The entire chain must meet the same confidentiality, integrity and accessibility requirements. Maximum potential can only be reached if technical vulnerabilities and human carelessness are minimised . An inadequate digital infrastructure could also be an obstacle in implementing the IoT in healthcare. As of yet there is no standardisation, legislation and regulations, and given that the amount of available data is only increasing, significant investment will be required to achieve or maintain the quality required [16,18-21]. In addition to technological obstacles, human factors also create a potential challenge. How do we use the data? Only a small proportion of the available data is analysed or used for making strategic choices .
The IoT will change our system of healthcare through the interaction between people and machines. The analysis of medical outcomes and realisation of solutions will have to be redefined. As well as the shift towards automation, the IoT also offers possibilities to make healthcare more personal and participatory, and the potential to better predict and prevent health problems with the aid of smart systems.
- Ottes L. Big Data in de Zorg. Wetenschappelijke raad voor het regeringsbeleid. Den Haag. 2016
- Patel M., Shangkuan J., Thomas C. What’s new with the Internet of Things? McKinsey&Company. 2017
- Van Hooijdonk R. Trends 2017-2018. 2017
- Gil D. et al. Internet of Things: A review of surveys based on context aware intelligent services. Sensors. 2016; 16(7): 1069
- Huntley K. How the Internet of Things will disrupt traditional healthcare. June 2016
- Van Campen W. Het medische Internet of Things valt of staat met goede beveiliging. September 2015
- IDC. Worldwide Internet of Things Forecast, 2015- 2020. May 2015
- Statista. Internet of Things (IoT): number of connected devices worldwide from 2012 to 2020
- Manyika J. et al. Unlocking the potential of the Internet of Things. McKinsey&Company. 2015
- McCabe B. Connected healthcare is becoming vital. August 2016
- Xcubelabs. 6 factors driving massive growth of IoT in healthcare. October 2015.
- Campbell J, Dussault G, Buchan J, Pozo-Martin F, Guerra Arias M, Leone C, Siyam A, Cometto G. A universal truth: no health without a workforce. Forum Report, Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, Recife, Brazil. Geneva, Global Health Workforce Alliance and World Health Organization, 2013
- Grand View Research. Internet of Things (IoT) in Healthcare Market Analysis By Component (Medical Device, System, Software, Services), By Connectivity Technology (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, NFC, Cellular, Satellite, BLU), By Application (Telemedicine, In patient Monitoring, Clinical Operation, Connected Imaging, Medication Management), By End-Use (Hospitals, Clinics, CRO, Research, Diagnostic Laboratories) And Segment Forecasts To 2022. May 2016
- European Police Office. The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA). 2014. The Hague. The Netherlands
- Bennett J. The Internet of Things goes nano. September 2016.
- McCabe B. How the Internet of Things has the potential to improve healthcare. August 2015
- CompTIA. Internet of Things: insights and opportunities. July 2016
- IDC. The digital universe of opportunities: rich data and the increasing value of the Internet of Things. April 2014
- Patel K. 6 benefits of IoT for hospitals and healthcare. 2017
- Markets&Markets. IoT Healthcare Market by Components (Medical Device, System and Software, Service, and Connectivity Technology), Application (Telemedicine, Workflow Management, Connected Imaging, Medication Management), NOTES | 82 End-User – Global Forecast to 2020. October 2015
- Mesko B. Healthcare is coming home with sensors and algorithms. The Medical Futurist. August 2016
- Lüdtke L. en Deerberg-Wittram J. Diabeter: Value-Based Health Care toegepast bij diabetes. BCG en Diabeter. 2016