According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 990.8 million physician office visits every year in the US alone, with over half of those visits made to primary care physicians. For every 100 people there are more than 300 visits to the doctor annually, and nearly 40 hospital outpatient visits. One can only imagine the numbers on a global scale.
With the number of doctor and hospital visits growing each year, appointments often must be scheduled weeks or months in advance, exam rooms are frequently overbooked, medical staffing resources are stretched thin, and waiting room delays are the norm. Unfortunately, a large percentage of doctor visits end in simple diagnoses and treatments that didn’t even require a doctor’s in-person appointment. This makes everything slower, drives up costs, and drains vital resources.
In an effort to curb unnecessary doctor visits and increase on-site service efficiency, healthcare providers have turned to connected devices that can help diagnose, treat, and inform patients about health issues. Likewise, consumers have taken to wearables and other at-home health monitoring devices.
Open collaboration is critical for the healthcare IoT ecosystem. The Open Connectivity Foundation’s Healthcare Project was developed to deliver the technology and certification requirements needed for interoperability in a secure way, with privacy in mind. The Project provides a platform for industry collaboration and technology partnerships between device makers, as well as discovering and meeting the needs of medical professionals.
Four new connected medical device types are included in the OCF 2.0 Specification release – a blood pressure monitor, glucose meter, thermometer, scale. The goal is to add at least five more devices at the beginning of 2019. The 2.0 Specification also features a bridging protocol that allows legacy devices to connect to the OCF ecosystem, increasing the connectivity of devices across different manufacturers.
The impact of IoT on healthcare
The healthcare ecosystem presents an immediate need for a vast amount of sensitive data to be gathered and analyzed in real time. There are multiple use cases where IoT devices are beneficial in a healthcare environment – from medical devices used in hospitals and clinics, to personal healthcare devices, like thermometers, glucose meter or blood pressure monitor. With these particular devices, the data can be easily gathered on a phone, tablet, or another device. There’s also the ability to trigger alerts if something goes wrong or is outside of the specified parameter range for that device (fever, etc…), that will be displayed on the phone, tablet or any device running an OCF-compliant client software/application.
Another real-world use case of the benefits of connected healthcare devices is an aging parent with health issues living at home alone. A heart rate monitor and/or a fall detector could be set to alert their loved ones via smartphone if something isn’t right, and automatically call emergency medical providers to the scene. For hospitals, this real-time access to data is critical in an emergency situation when every second matters and could mean the difference between life and death.
The goal of the Open Connectivity Foundation is to guarantee interoperability with strong security across domains. The OCF Healthcare Project provides the technology, standards, and collaboration needed to enable secure device interoperability for the healthcare ecosystem, effectively lessening the challenges of long waits and wasted resources because healthcare providers can quickly get the information they need when they need it.