Numerous devices and appliances are getting connected to the Internet day-by-day. Internet of Things is the new technology that has triggered a revolution all around the world. It has changed our day to day life to a great extent, from cell phones to washing machines and fitness bands and monitors. This new paradigm has wide ranging applications in various sectors, including healthcare. It has given hope to the healthcare sector, by allowing medical centers to function more efficiently and patients to obtain better treatments.
IoT in the healthcare market is growing progressively, and has various applications extending from remote monitoring to adhering to medication. With the increased use of IoT based systems in medical centers, it has shown a promising prospect to improve the quality and effectiveness of treatments and further improve the overall health of patients.
Technology has made healthcare easier on the pocket and also made it more accessible, for the patients. It has been observed over the years that medical diagnostics take up a large part of hospital bills. Technology has made routine medical checkups more home-centric for the patients, and accurate diagnosis has helped lessen the necessity of hospitalization.
One such IoT based solution that has recently caught the eye is the Smart Inhaler. Asthma is a chronic illness that has no cure and is thus prevalent lifelong. The World Health Organization testified that 250,000 people die annually due to asthma. The control medication and treatment of asthma consists of either completely avoiding triggers or regulation via control medication, that avert airway inflammation; or to stop spasms via rescue medicines, to reduce emergency room visits and deaths. An inhaler is a device that provides a measured and aerosolized dose of a wide assortment of medication that is administered to the lungs and air pathways.
Framework of a Smart Inhaler Device
Almost all the IoT based smart inhalers are sensors that act as a clip on to existing inhalers. It has a GPS extension which allows it to track when and where the puffs are taken by the patients. These sensors are linked with an app that the patient needs to install on their smartphone. This information is readily conversed to the app by the sensors via Bluetooth on the smartphone or a plug-in hub. These are often used as a part of the asthma management program, under a physician’s regulation. It is a digital platform consisting of a custom sensor which records and transmits the treatment acquiescence data.
The Smart Inhaler platform enables the physicians to effectively monitor the inhalation technique and frequency, capturing factors such as inhalation flow rate, flow speeding, inhalation volume, stimulus time, as well as the patient’s usage of the inhaler. The data that is generated by the app is an important tool which offers the user simple metrics and tailored advice for a more real supervision of their condition.
Benefits that the IoT based Smart Inhaler Platform Offers
Adherence to the medicine routine is a major issue that patients and physicians face. The patients often neglect the medications that are given to them to control their condition and end up using the rescue inhalers very often, putting themselves at a severe health risk, which can lead to loss of effectiveness. This trend has been observed for many years now. The key feature of the IoT based Smart inhaler is that it helps the patients adhere to their medication routine, and also allows the physicians to monitor their patients remotely.
The smart asthma inhaler precisely archives usage- when each dose is taken, it transfers this status to doctors, and helps keep the illnesses at check. This technology also gives automatically generated reminders, through the app, informing the patient to use the inhaler whenever necessary. Identification of the pattern, in the usage of the inhaler by the patients can aid the doctors in better understanding and controlling the respiratory disease. This makes the patient aware of the triggers, like pollen or temperature and helps keep them well-informed which helps to avoid Asthma attacks, preventing hospitalization.
The GPS sensor of the inhaler is a unique feature which actively records where and when the puff was taken, with this data over a period of time, it comes up with a pattern, without any necessity of personal diaries or other conscious entry of information. The time and location data for each use is linked with a wide range of factors from environmental, geographic, traffic, to numerous neighborhood data, thus creating a map of asthma attack incidences. With the help of this understanding of when and where the prophylactic puff of rescue medication was taken, the trigger of the attack can be altogether eliminated.
How the IoT helps Doctors and Patients Communicate
The amalgamation of technology in healthcare sector is beneficial only when it reinforces the relationship between the patients and doctors; it is not intended to substitute the bond. Currently, there is a suite of profession-oriented applications available to the healthcare professionals and physicians, which provide them tools to monitor various aspects of AI-based therapy suggestions and data analytics. This allows them to be up-to-date instantly, to help them make an informed, smart and personalized treatment for their patients. A sensor on an inhaler can be a boon as it would provide a wealth of data, which can in-turn be used to improve adherence to medication. This data at the hands of physicians will allow them to understand the actual usage of the medication, by focusing on behavior changes, possible triggers, and hindrances to adherence. However, the major issue that needs to be addressed is privacy and security concerns, with such close monitoring of the patients.
The Players and the Market
There are various companies that are currently looking into this technology. One of the prominent smart inhaler manufacturers has partnered with the Weather Channel to observe air quality in Louisville, Kentucky. As a part of a program, some companies have been giving out free sensors for rescue inhalers, and the other for maintenance inhalers to city residents with asthma. The market of smart inhalers is estimated to reach $191 million globally by 2022, which is approximately projecting an annual growth rate of 60%, according to a popular market research.
Big pharmaceutical companies, who have a significant portfolio in the Asthma and COPD, are forming alliances with the top technology giants, to develop smart inhalers. This shows how quickly generic competition can catch up with a potentially lucrative smart inhaler market. Development and launch of this sensor based smart inhaler offers the user simple metrics and custom-made advice for a more active control of their ailment. At the expense of smart inhalers, healthcare professionals are armed with a suite of specialized applications, providing remote monitoring tools, which can precisely and rapidly inform them. This enabled them to make smarter, informed and personalize decisions catering to the needs of the patients.