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The internet of things cures health industry headaches

The health industry has been an early adopter of the internet of things (IoT). Nearly half (46%) of executives who participated in PwC's 2019 survey said their organization is actively using IoT, and another 21% stated they have IoT projects in development. Their main ambition is efficiency: 54% already use IoT to improve operations, and another 21% plan to do so in the next two years. Areas in which IoT technology is most active today include supply chain (45%), employee and customer operations (40%) and logistics (40%). 

As with the other industries surveyed, health organizations keep issues related to trusted tech top of mind. Trust concerns have even caused some companies to stop or slow down their IoT projects. Yet, 56% are taking steps to ensure data integrity, 54% are working on cybersecurity issues and 47% are actively tackling consumer or employee privacy. 

Overall, health industry execs are optimistic, with 90% believing that IoT’s benefits outweigh its risks. In addition, 79% believe that IoT will help them grow revenue or increase profits.

Here's how they're putting IoT to work:

Locating and managing assets
Knowing the exact location of life-saving devices and essential equipment like infusion pumps results in fewer delays for patients and helps optimize machine use. About a third (36%) of healthcare execs use IoT to manage critical assets, and another 20% plan to do so in the next two years. Since newer real-time location systems do not require beacons (which can be costly and challenging to maintain in a healthcare setting), companies can often get a pilot running in weeks, with minimal disruption to facility operations. Beyond inventory control, 29% are currently using IoT for predictive maintenance, with 31% planning to do so in the near future. 

Creating a single source of truth in the supply chain
When combined with blockchain and AI—which 45% and 52%, respectively, of health organizations are piloting or have implemented—IoT can automate trust within a supply chain. By creating a digital “birth certificate” for a product, the manufacturer, logistics provider, distributors, wholesalers and hospitals can get accurate information on its whereabouts, provenance and other attributes. An IoT tag on each device contains the birth certificate, and a single instance is stored on a blockchain to create a secure, unchangeable record. Each participant, such as a hospital, views the information via its own ERP system, which is integrated with the blockchain. 

Enhancing the employee and patient experience
About a third (36%) of health industry execs are already using IoT to improve security and safety for their staff and patients, and another 18% plan to do so. In a hospital setting, medical teams can track the location of patients wearing wristbands with sensors as they move through the surgical process—and deliver relevant information to families via their smartphones and digital signage in waiting rooms. Such trackers also can determine how long a healthcare worker has spent with a patient and can ensure that patients receive the right medication at the right time. And hospital staff can use on-demand alert buttons to summon help when needed. Facial recognition can also improve security by validating which staff, patients or visitors should have access to certain areas, such as the maternity ward.

About a third (36%) of health industry execs are already using IoT to improve security and safety for their staff and patients, and another 18% plan to do so.

Capturing data to drive better outcomes
Gaining new insights about patients by collecting data remotely is a big draw for health organizations: 35% have already done so, and 47% plan to within two years. Some examples include home monitoring of patients using connected blood pressure, glucose and other devices, which enables doctors and nurses to track patients more closely and identify individuals who are at risk. Such data can also be plugged into analytics software to study patient compliance. 

See how IoT is affecting other industries:

The hospitality industry welcomes IoT

Hotels, restaurants and other consumer-focused hospitality businesses have been quick to adopt IoT. In fact, 70% of hospitality executives report that they have active IoT projects—far ahead of the average (48%) for all others in our survey.

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IoT makes industrial manufacturers “smart”

The internet of things has roots in the world of manufacturing and continues to help usher in an era of smart factories. The majority of those in our IoT survey—some 71% of industrial manufacturing executives—confirm they are either building or testing IoT-related solutions.

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Retailers are sold on IoT

The retail sector has a high percentage of companies with active IoT projects: 58%, compared with 48% of all the respondents in our IoT survey. Another 30% of the retailers have IoT projects in a research or development phase.

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