Using IoT technologies to bring better health care to remote and underserved areas

We define health applications here as those uses of IoT technology whose primary purpose is to improve health and wellness. This does not include all health-related applications, such as Internet-connected devices used in hospitals or other medical facilities, which we cover in the analysis of factory settings. The devices used in human health fall into three categories: ƒ Wearables: Devices designed to be worn or carried. ƒ Implantables, injectables, and ingestibles: Smart devices that are inserted, injected, or swallowed. ƒ Non-wearable measurement devices: Devices that gather and transmit health data from the human body periodically but are not attached continuously, such as Bluetoothenabled pulse oximeters or WiFi-enabled scales. The use of IoT technology to monitor and manage human health and fitness is expanding rapidly.

Analysts estimate that 130 million consumers worldwide use fitness trackers today.12 With the rise of smart watches and other wearable devices, the number of connected fitness monitors is expected to exceed 1.3 billion units in 2025.13 The basic technology for fitness monitoring devices—sensors and low-power chips—is well established, and prices are expected to decline as volumes rise. We also expect rapid growth in devices and systems for in-home monitoring of patients, particularly those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

These devices, which may be worn or only used intermittently, have already demonstrated potential to improve health outcomes and reduce health-care costs among patients with acute forms of chronic heart failure, diabetes, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). In developing economies, home health monitors may be prohibitively expensive, but such devices can be used to evaluate patients remotely at rural health clinics. The basic technology is available, though adoption has been limited by high cost and limited efficacy for non-acute patients. As technology evolves, costs will continue to fall, enabling broader adoption and use by a wider range of patients.

Also, as the technology evolves, monitors become portable, and more frequent readings are taken, further benefits are likely to emerge. In addition to wearables and home health monitors, IoT devices for human health include implantables, ingestibles, and injectables, such as nanobots that can clear arteries or help detect early-stage cancer. These devices have not yet reached the clinical trial stage, and we do not attempt to size their potential impact in 2025. However, when they are ready for widespread adoption, their impact could be as large as or larger than the benefits of the other technologies we discuss here.

Potential economic impact

Overall, we estimate that the use of IoT technologies in human health applications could have an economic impact of $171 billion to $1.6 trillion globally in 2025. The largest source of impact would be in treating patients with chronic diseases, which could be worth nearly $1.1 trillion per year globally (Exhibit 8). This is based on two sources of value—cost savings in treatment and the value of longer lives and improved quality of life that patients with chronic conditions could enjoy if IoT monitoring helps them avoid disease complications. We estimate that cost savings have a value of $110 billion to $470 billion per year in 2025, assuming savings of 10 to 15 percent in advanced and developing economies. The larger source of value could be improvements in life span and quality of life, w

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