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How Will IoT Impact Doctors, Patients, And Pharma?

IoT hasn’t reached beyond fitness and connected TVs yet, but it’s poised to quickly change the intermingled relationships among providers, caregivers, and the public at large as eMarketer runs the numbers.

While the medical and drug industries have seen advanced treatments, research, and diagnostic tools leap ahead of other sectors for the past four decades, the same has not been true when it comes to the way doctors, insurers, pharmaceutical companies interact and connect with patients via their personal technologies.

That appears to be changing suddenly across the board, as an eMarketer study notes that tech companies are finding burgeoning from a variety of healthcare constituencies about exploring digital programs that complement traditional therapies and services. The big promise of these so-called digitally-oriented“beyond-the-pill” or “around-the-pill” services is that providers will be able to craft responses to patients that are more personal, efficient, and cost-effective.

For the moment, these services face an array of regulatory and privacy concerns.

But as eMarketer’s report, US Healthcare Beyond The Pill, the groundwork has been carefully laid over the past several years and these approaches are starting to gain traction.

In particular, healthcare IoT, which touches on the devices, sensors,

and platforms that includes popular consumer products like health and fitness trackers and other wearables, is now moving into the next phase, eMarketer says. That coming step includes electronic health records (EHRs), smart medical devices, and even ingestibles and implantables that can report back the work they do inside a body.

The data that’s gathered and collected by these devices and sensors can be analyzed and packaged into integrated offerings that not only let patients track their own health, but also close the loop by providing feedback to healthcare providers.

Moving Beyond The Pill

“As we move beyond the pill to an electronically holistic system, the coming insights will give researchers a wealth of data to look for new disease and health insights as well as new therapeutic approaches,” Michelle Longmire, CEO of healthcare app and analytics platform Medable Inc., whose writing in a December 2015 article in HIT Consultant is cited by eMarketer’s report.

In the development and wider adoption of beyond-the-pill solutions, IoT will take a central position by dint of the constant flow of data these devices share.

Leon Marsh, CEO of Inova Design Solutions, a firm that makes wireless body sensing devices, told Computerworld UK in July 2016 that the IoT is the basis for continuous, noninvasive monitoring. “If issues arise, they will be apparent before it becomes an emergency situation,” he said.

What Does Location Have To Do With It?

At the center of that understanding between doctor and patient is where to the best and closest care can be accessed. Location technology, naturally, is one of the key foundations of the data that is shared by IoT devices.

This past summer, an analysis by Yext For Healthcare of 1,800 physician and healthcare facilities across 15,000 found that 5 percent of doctors’ and hospitals didn’t even have an online, local listing — that’s 3.6x greater than the unlisted percentage of other businesses (8.68 percent). [Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details here.]

Healthcare’s data structures are different than QSR or retail because unlike a general business location, consumers are looking for a specific person or treatment near them (except in extreme situations), Marc Ferrentino, EVP of Strategy at Yext, told us at the time the study was released. Healthcare tends have a multi-dimensional structure, starting with a hospital, a facility, or a practice. Within those areas are multiple departments such as oncology, obstetrics, orthopedics, all of which are distinct. Connecting patients with such specific intra-department listings is a challenge.

“Let’s say you only have your hospital listed. And let’s say someone was looking for an orthopedist in an area of Bangor, Maine,” Ferrentino said. “Your orthopedics department inside your hospital may not come up. Now, if you have those individual departments listed, all of a sudden, during that discovery process, you have a higher chance of being found by a person searching for that service.

“Secondly, if someone is looking for a doctor with a specific specialty in a certain area, the listing can focus on detailed credentials and backgrounds, which we can make searchable,” Ferrentino continued. “Those are areas that while the core Yext location engine that still sits underneath it all, these are new net structures and new ways of looking at the information and how it gets placed on the internet.”

By consolidating the marketing into a single set within a facility, you’re exposed to a smaller number of people you have to talk to. It’s also because of the consolidation of the doctors, the marketing budgets will get larger. Now, these organizations can afford to bring in professional marketers. Professional marketers, obviously, have a much larger purview of what’s possible and what they can do to help the patient experience.

That is now a new thing that didn’t really exist on a mass scale before. And that brings us to the big other trend that we’re seeing: health searches have skyrocketed. After all, about 95 percent of health searches are “nearby searches.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.