For years, industry pundits spoke of a day when telemedicine technology would enable patients to receive healthcare services from anywhere. Interestingly, telehealth dates back much further than most would expect. The earliest concepts of remote patient care date back as far as the late 1800’s, when doctors diagnosed illnesses and recommended remedies literally via phone. This gave birth to the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine,” which are still widely used today. While remote care capabilities have grown exponentially, the need for “telephonic” connectivity has only become more important and, thus is in need of modern technologies to move forward
In more recent years, early IoT devices such as wellness monitors, blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, scales and pulse meters have been enabled by 2G-based networks. These low-bandwidth devices, requiring little or no urgency in transmission speeds, have paved the way for more sophisticated capabilities and greater patient care that both doctors and patients are demanding.
However, due to the ongoing sunset of 2G networks around the globe and the probable sunset of 3G networks in the near future, telehealth devices currently employing 2G and 3G technology will require redesign or significant upgrades. This is where LTE comes in.
Innovative deployments of LTE Category-0 and LTE-M modules will push telehealth into new realms of possibility. The benefits of LTE technology are multiple: LTE provides much more flexibility, will likely cost less per device than 3G, deliver superior speed and incur less airtime than 2G and 3G.
More specifically for the healthcare industry, the advent of LTE represents a paradigm shift in remote care capabilities through the number of telehealth innovations:
- Video consultations: Diagnosis is becoming more complex, and some patients require healthcare access within a moment’s notice. LTE’s ability to support high-bandwidth video streams enable virtual face-to-face visits between patients and providers. This allows healthcare professionals to provide more accurate diagnoses, and to impart a personal touch that often makes the biggest impact on patients.
- Aging in place: LTE’s advanced capabilities are enabling elders to stay at home and out of nursing homes. Advanced “always-on” LTE devices deliver low latency connectivity for near-immediate assistance and ensure continuity of care by keeping tabs on vital signs. When vitals deviate from acceptable levels, physicians receive alerts. And ubiquitous LTE networks allow patients to travel worldwide and still remain under a doctor’s care.
- Patient tracking: Next-generation LTE-powered devices ensure that those prone to getting lost can be easily found. For example, this enables caregivers and family members to locate Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. For frailer elders, always-on devices trip alerts to a monitoring company if they fall in their home.
- Prescription drug management: LTE brings new possibilities for the efficient tracking and monitoring of patient prescription use. In some cases, as many as 30% of dispensed drug programs are not run to completion, costing tens of millions of dollars in waste. LTE-based devices can provide the control to remind patients to stay on track with treatment programs while also reducing costs.
- Clinical trials: Pharmaceutical companies can potentially utilize similar technologies during clinical trials to reduce error rates and ensure that participants take the proper dosages on schedule. As a result, testing can be completed more rapidly during clinical trials and can bring new medicines to market faster and more cost-effectively.
- Tablet-based Innovations: Finally, the most promising area in patient-centric remote care is empowered by iPads and other tablet-based devices. Lightweight, convenient tablets provide a single‐point experience for healthcare providers. Since they require no middleware or time‐intensive integrations, IT deployments are accelerated. For security purposes, tablets can be restricted to a very narrow application area for the intended use of the device. This allows for careful and intentional provisioning of permissions for specific applications on the tablet. LTE GPS tracking capabilities reduce the chances of iPads “walking out” of hospitals, and provides an element of protection for home healthcare providers traveling to unfamiliar regions.
When it comes to patient privacy and compliance with healthcare regulations, LTE shines once again. Compared to fixed network resources such as WiFi, which are built primarily on a single set of protocols, LTE cellular networks are varied — not only in the underlying technology but also in the radio frequency used. Secure, cellular connectivity eliminates these concerns, providing obscurity that works to its advantage; the connection itself has the capacity to impede access. In particular, LTE brings numerous security features built into the architecture, including Network Access Security, Network Domain Security, User Domain Security, Application Security, Visibility and Configurability Security and Cryptographic keys. On top of these, many carriers on the KORE network add additional security credentialing via APIs, to provide yet another layer of authentication.
As the world population rises and healthcare becomes more sophisticated, LTE-based IoT healthcare applications will play a significant role in improving the quality of care and delivering convenience while lowering costs for patients, families and providers. Several resources are available to develop LTE-based telehealth devices, and to re-imagine or retrofit existing tools. Download an informative whitepaper “The Roadmap to LTE” and watch multiple videos to learn how LTE-based IoT can help your healthcare business. The people of KORE are available discuss end-to-end healthcare implementations through a quick response form.