When I was 5, I took the crayon and jammed it up my nose. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get it out.
Finally, when it started to hurt and it was clear I had done something serious… I went to my mother.
My mother, after trying to get the crayon out herself, rushed me to the doctor.
This was the early 1970s Mumbai in India, and doctors at that time had little technology available to them.
Most of the time when you went to the doctor, he’d use a stethoscope, look you over and say a few words. And if all was OK, you’d be dismissed and told to come back in a year.
The doctor tried to get the crayon out, but it was stuck. Now it was getting serious…
Thankfully, my doctor persisted… and using tweezers or something like it… he eventually got the crayon out. Primitive, though still effective.
Now, perhaps this is what they would do even today with a 5-year-old who has a crayon stuffed up his nose. However, for nearly everything else, health care is a field that uses highly sophisticated technology.
Today, we have robots used in general surgery, cardiac surgery and colorectal surgery, as well as many others. If you’re a patient diagnosed with diabetes, you can use a continuous blood glucose monitor and an insulin pump to manage your condition.
Medical-device makers such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical now make many of their products with wireless transmitters that send data regularly to computers.
In every hospital, you have patient monitors, drug delivery systems, cameras and tracking devices. And thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, all health care providers were required to begin showing “meaningful use” of electronic health records by 2014.
It’s a massive number of devices and collection of data that are all going to be part of the medical Internet of Things (IoT).
The Big Data Push
Electronic health records (EHR) are expected to be in 95% of health care facilities by 2020, according to research. This is not just your doctor’s notes and your prescription records. The EHR will include your X-rays, scans, test results and everything to do with your medical history. The goal of the EHR is for it to become the one source for your entire medical history, following you from doctor to specialist to hospital to outpatient recovery.
IDC, a leading market research firm, estimates that by 2020 we’ll have 35 zetabytes of medical data alone, which is a 44-fold increase from 2009. If you piled this up in tablets, you’d get about one-third of the way to the moon or fill up a 500-bed hospital 11.3 times over.
And this data is already beginning to make a meaningful difference to patients’ lives by looking for patterns and finding ways to use preventative steps to keep patients from returning to the hospital for lengthy stays and expensive treatments.
Community Health Center Network (CHCN) is a hospital in the San Francisco area serving approximately 200,000 patients. Using the services of Tableau Software, a Big Data company, CHCN has experienced a 37% increase in the number of patients seeing a primary-care physician following a hospital admission and a 12% reduction in emergency department visits, as well as a 14% drop in hospital readmissions.
“It’s actually turned the business analyst into a hero,” says Andy De, Tableau’s managing director for health care and life sciences.
The Health Care Revolution Starts With the Internet of Things
The potential benefit to human lives is going to be huge, as Big Data companies step forward to help hospitals, physicians and even insurance companies analyze the copious amounts of data collected in EHRs and even from the medical devices. This will lead to improvements in medical care and medical technology. In fact, the spending on all aspects of the medical IoT is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2025.
You are going to see massive stock market winners emerge from this medical segment of the IoT.
That’s one reason why I’m looking to recommend a manufacturer of IoT medical devices in the coming months.
You can benefit from the medical IoT trend from major medical-device companies such as Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) or Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX).
Or you can get exposure to these companies through iShares U.S. Medical Devices (NYSE Arca: IHI). This exchange-traded fund (ETF) is already up over 18% in 2016 on the strength of IoT demand I described today. It has easily beaten the S&P 500, which is up less than 6% for the year.