The future state of healthcare and how IoT and AI will play a vital role


A recent IoT Now webinar uncovered how demand for medical and healthcare-related services is changing as new technologies enable use cases such as remote diagnosis. The webinar, hosted by IoT Now managing editor, Jeremy Cowan, brought together Dinky Lin, an AIoT specialist at China Mobile International (UK), who is responsible for consultation on artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT at the telecoms carrier, with Robin Duke-Woolley, the founder and CEO of Beecham Research.

With a recently authored report available to webinar attendees, Duke-Woolley set the scene, drawing on his research content to describe how medical demand has increased. He pointed out that, although COVID-19 has attracted greater attention and placed more pressure on healthcare in general, many of the techniques and solutions being deployed were already well underway before the pandemic. He did, however, emphasise that the pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in systems and accelerated trends that were moving more slowly prior to the pandemic.

Duke-Woolley added that aging populations, increases in chronic disease and mental health issues, plus environmental factors such as air pollution are adding to the pressure faced by hospitals and medical centres. They are also facing regulation and policy issues that need to be addressed to ensure patient safety and compliant procedures.

The good news is that data storage and analytics, communications and technologies such as robotics are enabling more to be done remotely, increasing convenience for patients and reducing costs for healthcare organisations. A move towards connected medical equipment is happening in greater breadth and depth and the use of IoT in healthcare is increasing, he said, singling out smart hospitals and the ability to transform ambulances into consulting rooms as attractive new capabilities.

Of course, funding is always a challenge but Duke-Woolley said the possible savings are becoming apparent and in the US, for example, telehealth is starting to become a re-imbursable expense from insurers and that should result in increased adoption.

Dinky Lin then began her presentation, explaining how AI and IoT are changing medical behaviour. She said that current AI and IoT environments in healthcare are focused in three key areas: Health Management, Cross-Collaboration and Digital Hospitals. Health Management is seeing the transformation from providing medical treatment to addressing prevention of sickness, Cross-Collaboration is enabling a shift in regional health provision so health-related data are synchronised between general practitioners, hospitals and specialists. Finally, in hospitals, digitalisation now runs from registration to planning and from imaging to infrastructure. The shared digital healthcare infrastructure is connecting devices to networks, to the cloud, software and applications, she said.

Lin went on to segment healthcare into four key scenarios that China Mobile International has experience of in the Asia-Pacific region.  She described home-based healthcare applications, such as sleep monitoring and blood pressure monitoring and explained how the integration of home devices and healthcare is ongoing. Aging populations mean security systems, for example, can also support medical applications and this is now well underway.

Lin also described how telemedicine apps are underway, enabling remote consultations and remote outpatient services. Ultimately, these will lead to remote surgery and the utilisation of robots, with video-enabled operations and control possible.

Excitingly, these applications will create an ecosystem that encompasses smart hospitals with mobile healthcare. Key technologies are 4k video and imaging, secure, low latency data collection and sharing plus the increased utilisation of connectivity to keep patients and physicians informed.

The webinar concluded with a lively Q&A from the audience with both Lin and Duke-Woolley answering questions about the future state of healthcare and AI and IoT’s fundamental enabling roles in that.

To access the webinar in full, visit:

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