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The Connected Spine And the Internet of Doctors

This was originally posted on the Salesforce blog, here.

Dan Noble, my father, was 27 years old when he was medically discharged from the Army.

Years of physical training, running with a 50lb rucksack on his back, and the slow erosion of his spinal disks from Degenerative Disc Disease finally took their toll.

Over time, Dad's spine had degraded the protective area between nerve and bone. Raw spine made contact with raw spine and sent neural spasms throughout his body. He was virtually paralyzed - his pain so intense that movement was impossible.

His first spinal surgery terrified my family. Doctors replaced his C7 and L2 disc with a cushy prosthetic padding. The recovery lasted days. He laid face down in bed, a giant gash running the length of his body. He moaned from the pain of being split in two and stapled back together.

That was Dan's first surgery.

He would have three more in the next 15 years, always sudden and with little warning. He would shake, collapse and cling to his bed.

I spent years worried my father would succumb to his back injury. The unknown made family planning difficult. His back was a ticking time bomb and my school functions, our family vacations, and day-to-day activities were always at risk.

After his surgery, there were fewer piggy-back rides, fewer wrestling matches and not many "active" outings. I imagine what life would have been like if his doctors had the technology we have today.

Medical IoT and the CRM

Recently, I attended a lecture from Charlie Isaacs, CTO for Customer Connection at Salesforce. During his presentation on the Internet of Things (IoT), Charlie revealed a connected knee implant for the patella. The device, which had very advanced sensors, could indicate when the implant was herniating and during surgery could help doctors detect precise balance points for perfect placement.

Theoretically, the IoT device could open doors to massive improvements in the medical space. Precision surgeries would mean fewer repeat injuries. Sensors could detect misalignments or potential threats to the body and alert doctors before a severe relapse. Perhaps for my father, IoT could have meant a healthier life and more family adventures.

The Power of Proactive

IoT, to date, has largely focused on object-to-object communications. We can link our phone to our house lights, television or security system. We can receive push notifications from our oven and have Amazon Alexa place a dinner order in our stead.

However, the true power of IoT is apparent in future proactive and potentially lifesaving technologies in the medical CRM field. Medical IoT tools may have the power to transform patient relationships with their doctors.

Hypothetically, a patient IoT device, linked to a medical CRM, could flag appointments as a priority for doctors. The CRM could make an emergency notification to the hospital contact center. The appropriate staff could reach out to the patient, explain the problem and usher them into the office - completely prepped to handle their predicament.

Can you imagine the result? Less congested emergency rooms. Smarter patient intake forms. Stronger treatments and remedies... the list goes on.

How far away is this future?

According to a report by Mind Commerce Publishing, experts expect IoT deployments in the healthcare industry to reach $117 billion by 2020. Product development is on the rise and soon there will be a boom in the number of patients with smart, connected implants in their body.

It's not limited to major surgeries either. In a recent study, Medical Internet of Things and Big Data in Healthcare, Doctor Dimiter V. Dimitrov covers the idea of 'health selfies,' outlining two products that uniquely measure and communicate patient needs.

"The Myo, originally a motion controller for games, is now being used in orthopedics for patients who need to exercise after a fracture. With the aid of the Myo, patients can monitor their progress and doctors can measure the angle of movement.

The Zio Patch measures heart rate and electrocardiogram (ECG) and is the US Food and Drug Administration approved."

To date, the idea of cybernetic implants and internet connected bodies is fast moving from sci-fi to sci-fact. There is increasing buzz about what this medical IoT world could look like. And even tech giants like Google have input. In fact, Google's leading engineer Ray Kurzweil radically predicts that humans will become artificially intelligent cyborgs by the year 2030!

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