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Vodafone whitepaper hails role of IoT in delivering personalised healthcare treatments

Vodafone outlines how smart devices can improve patient adherence by offering them personalised healthcare

Internet of things (IoT) devices could provide patients suffering with long-term illnesses with access to more personalised treatment, a Vodafone whitepaper claims.

The document, created in partnership with Vodafone and Bernard Vrijens, public health professor at the University of Liege, highlights how smart technologies can improve the number of patients who follow doctor’s advice.

The document cites data from the World Health Organisation, which found that 50% of people with long conditions such as hypertension or cancer adhere to what their doctors say.

However, “better approaches” could convince 50% of non-adherents to follow instructions, and potentially save $290bn on avoidable medical spending in the US alone.

An example of a system in the adherence programme is using smart packaging for medicines, so the bottle or carton they are stored in recognises when it has been opened and the data can be passed on to a healthcare provider.

Jon Lee-Davey, IoT health lead at Vodafone, told Computer Weekly the use cases for IoT are not limited to smart packaging, but could also include smart drug delivery devices.

“Smart inhalers are one example of that where inhalers can detect the time and amount of dosage and then feed that information back to the healthcare professional to support the discussion between a patient and their doctor,” he said.

“We also outlined [in the whitepaper] that other smart delivery devices can include connected injectors, which is a very similar principle to that of inhalers.”

In that example, the injector could track the date and time of a dose and the amount given to identify the effect it has on the patient’s condition and ascertain if the prescription needs tweaking, he added.

Read more about IoT in healthcare

This information could prove useful to healthcare providers and allow them to offer better tailored advice to patients, as well as empower patients to make better informed decisions about how to proceed with self-care at different stages of their illnesses.

“The patient is provided with the right tools at the right time to make better decisions. Ultimately, the greatest benefit for them – aside from making their life simpler – is hopefully achieving better health outcomes,” he said.

Dymaxia is one of the companies that is already offering IoT systems in healthcare with its Anxiety Meter app. Users measure their heartrate using a wearable device and that data is tracked on the app. It is aimed at children with autism to track how their mood changes throughout the day.

Similarly, Philips is offering devices to help patients to self-manage at home, including an interactive scale and a device which tracks changes to the person’s gait. All the data is sent back to the healthcare provider so they are aware of the patient’s progress. 

However, Davey added that the technology products are not for everyone: “We have to bear in mind that one size doesn’t fit all in healthcare, particularly when we’re looking at a personalised approach.

“We want the best solution applied to treat patients if it’s appropriate to them, but we also want to see a much more encompassing discussion between different stakeholders in the ecosystem to be able to enable the adoption of these types of technologies.”

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