The Internet of Things has had a massive impact on healthcare during the pandemic. This article explains the role of IoT in COVID management and how various IoT solutions can improve pandemic action in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been labeled the most disruptive public health crisis since the influenza outbreak of 1918. Since its advent two years ago, it has claimed over five million lives and severely impacted billions worldwide.
On the bright side, healthcare and research communities have made some notable pandemic management strides. One remarkable development has been the use of new-age technologies like the Internet of Things to tackle the outbreak.
Although IoT was already gaining significant traction in healthcare before the pandemic, COVID-19 introduced unprecedented growth in the segment. As hospitals and clinics struggled to get by with strained resources and patients searched for new ways to communicate with care providers amid lockdowns and social-distancing measures, IoT and related technologies became instrumental in bridging the gaps.
Now that the pandemic is gradually becoming endemic, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on IoT's role during the crisis. In today's article, we discuss how IoT can help fight pandemics by examining its impact in managing the COVID-19 crisis.
How Has IoT helped Manage the COVID-19 Pandemic?
IoT has had a considerable impact on healthcare operations in recent years. Globally, IoT solutions play a critical role in various segments of health delivery.
In the ongoing pandemic, IoT products have facilitated real-time monitoring and patient-provider communication across the various infection phases below.
Early Diagnosis Phase: Faster identification
Quick diagnosis is one of the most critical success factors in controlling infections as contagious as COVID-19, where even asymptomatic patients can spread the virus. The sooner an infection is identified, the faster the appropriate treatment can be deployed.
IoT devices accelerate diagnosis by facilitating faster data capturing. For COVID-19 management, smart thermometers deployed in various premises can measure the temperature of individuals as they enter and trigger alerts to first responders when fever is detected. Intelligent cameras in public spaces can also capture individuals making repetitive coughing gestures and directing health personnel to them.
Quarantine Phase: Real-time monitoring
As the patient recovers in quarantine, IoT can help monitor them remotely without placing caregivers and family members at risk. For example, wearables can continuously track symptoms like temperature and blood pressure, while automated disinfectant gadgets can routinely keep the patient's environment virus-free.
In care centers, IoT-enabled IV pumps can ensure the dosage is followed with precision, minimizing the patient's physical contact with staff.
Post-recovery Phase: Preventing reinfection
Most people with mild COVID symptoms have been able to recover at home within several days, with minimal to no treatments. However, many individuals have been diagnosed more than once, indicating that reinfection is possible after recovery.
IoT has demonstrated commendable potential in controlling reinfections. For example, wearables can sync with the patient's records to alert doctors if symptoms reappear. Smart bands can also track movement and alert the wearer when they get too close to another person.
Leveraging IoT devices for Pandemic Management
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet of Things has shown tremendous value in assisting patients, healthcare providers, and authorities. Consequently, the healthcare community is keen on expanding IoT use in managing pandemics.
Read on to uncover how various IoT technologies can bolster pandemic management today and in the future.
Wearable devices have exploded in the last decade. Thanks to the development of powerful and affordable hardware, smartwatches, smart glasses, and fitness trackers are widespread and feature-packed.
As a result, despite relentless data privacy concerns, numerous industries are exploring wearables to improve operations and customer satisfaction. Healthcare, for instance, is expected to spend $20 billion annually on developing wearable technology in 2022 and 2023.
Wearables can support pandemic management in several notable ways. An IoT wearable can monitor early infection signs and inform the user, enabling them to take action before other symptoms appear. The wearable can even refer to the patient's calendar and schedule a medical appointment automatically.
During recovery, various IoT devices can work together to check a patient's symptoms and administer the required treatments autonomously.
Despite being a relatively young technology, the Internet of Drone Things (IoDT) has caught on rapidly. From rescue operations to deliveries, drones are now used by multiple industries, including agriculture, the military, and healthcare.
Smart drones are operated relatively straightforwardly with a controller and smartphone, making them ideal tools for accomplishing various tasks over long distances.
In pandemic management, different types of IoT-powered drones can be used to streamline response, treatment, and the enforcement of regulations. For example, thermal imaging drones can capture the temperature of people in crowds and help paint a picture of infection rates in the early stages of a COVID-like pandemic.
Meanwhile, surveillance drones can monitor movement during lockdowns and alert authorities when action is needed in a particular area, while delivery drones can transport supplies without endangering human agents.
The Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT) came about when robotics fused with networks, resulting in remotely-operated automated machines. From industrial equipment to personal assistants, connected robots are prevalent in homes, offices, industries, and healthcare delivery points.
Pandemic management robots can fit into three categories: autonomous robots, telerobots, and collaborative robots.
- Autonomous robots are pre-configured to perform various sensor-dependent tasks, such as detecting symptoms, disinfecting contaminated areas, checking on patients, collecting swab tests, and delivering treatments, all without putting human health workers at risk.
- Telerobots bridge the gap between healthcare providers and remote patients, improving emergency response, freeing up resources in health establishments, and reducing infection risk for medical staff and patients.
- Collaborative robots are deployed to handle repetitive tasks like symptom monitoring and data collection, leaving human workers free for more sensitive or non-routine activities.
4. IoT-based Smartphone Apps
The ubiquity of smartphones makes them exceedingly valuable as service delivery tools across numerous sectors. Many mobile applications have already been developed for the healthcare domain, and some have significantly supported COVID-19 response.
The applications of IoT-based mobile apps in pandemic management are wide and varied. By interfacing IoT devices like sensors and cameras with the appropriate smartphone apps, healthcare providers can accomplish tasks like updating databases, providing remote consulting, and tracking diagnosed patients with relative ease.
Some of the IoT apps that have proven their worth during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- DetectaChem in the U.S. enables low-cost COVID-19 tests using a kit interfaced with a mobile app.
- TraceTogether in Singapore helps track people close to a COVID-19 patient before they are diagnosed.
- HaMagen in Israel alerts smartphone users when they get in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Stopp Corona in Austria delivers daily health reports to users, including infection rates, new symptoms, and ongoing healthcare operations.
The Future of IoT in Pandemic Management
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on businesses, economies, societies, and everyday life, and its impact will remain long after the world has recovered.
On the bright side, the endless possibilities of IoT devices and apps have been put to the test during the pandemic, and they have emerged stronger by improving response time and efficiency, patient care, and public sensitization.
Looking ahead, technologies like IoT will continue playing a huge part in addressing health challenges, particularly future pandemics. IoT2Market already features a host of IoT products that support pandemic management in various impactful ways. With COVID-19 dramatically accelerating healthcare IoT innovation, we are bound to see even more exciting products down the road.
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