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At first mention of the internet of things (IoT) for healthcare, Fitbits, Jawbones and smart watches probably come to mind. These devices have received a strong dose of media hype, but they are just the tip of the iceberg in a growing infrastructure that is bringing meaningful connectivity to the business of health.
As explored in the new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Medical Things: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know Now,” the IoT, an ecosystem of internet-enabled devices and sensors (including mobile devices and wearables), microprocessors, data hubs, communication networks and analytics programs, is ushering in an era in which data is seamlessly collected, shared and analyzed.
Despite numerous regulatory and privacy constraints, organizations inside and outside the healthcare industry are exploring ways to put the IoT to work. Players include pharma and biopharma manufacturers; hospitals and clinics; physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers (HCPs); health insurers; fitness companies; and tech firms. The goals are to cut costs, boost efficiency and improve the way illnesses are diagnosed, treated and prevented.
At the same time, an increasing number of digitally empowered consumers are taking more responsibility for their health. Primed to use fitness wearables and smartphone apps, people are growing more comfortable with new types of sensors that capture and analyze their health and medical data. It will only be a matter of time before this information is seamlessly integrated into larger healthcare systems to make their care more precise and efficient.
Though their number is growing steadily, many IoT healthcare projects are still in their infancy, and remain a patchwork of disparate and isolated initiatives. And while it’s not clear yet how things will shake out, there is also no shortage of ideas. Many large and influential tech firms—including Apple, Google (and its parent company Alphabet), Samsung, Philips, IBM, General Electric and SAP—have entered the IoT space in a big way and are hoping to make things happen quickly.
The result is that hospitals and healthcare systems are using the IoT to make their facilities more efficient. Initiatives include sharing records to ensure higher-quality care, tracking medical supply inventory and communicating with field personnel.
Many pharma companies and medical device makers are already incorporating IoT components into their manufacturing and distribution operations. They are also exploring more strategic ways to harness it to make their products better during the research and development phase and in clinical trials.
eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.
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