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The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

IoT of Medicine

Healthcare is currently undergoing a paradigm shift as we move from reactive “sick care” to proactive preventative care.   Reactive care focuses on episodic care instead of long-term care for chronic diseases and other health care events that require prolonged care.  The CDC reports that 7 out of 10 deaths are from chronic diseases.  The care and treatment of these diseases cost more than 75% of the dollars spent on healthcare.  As care moves to more preventative and personalized, new delivery methods will emerge to ensure proper care. One of those new delivery methods will be IoMT – the Internet of Medical Things.

What is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)?

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) IoMT is a network of connected devices that generate, collect, transmit, and analyze data. This market consists of many types of devices such as wearables, implanted devices, and stationary machines that connect and communicate with each other as well as health systems.

According to Markets and Markets, the IoMT was valued at $41.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to rise to $158.1 billion in 2022.

Why is this market growing so quickly?

Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of connected medical care and has changed how we interact with our medical providers almost overnight. IoMT has helped make healthcare accessible during this pandemic by allowing patients stay safe at home and allowing providers to more quickly and accurately provide remote diagnoses. As we move forward, the technologies adopted during Covid will continue to play a role in healthcare delivery.

While contactless healthcare experiences may be occurring out of necessity for now, it is planting the seeds for longer-term transformation of healthcare and creating both new delivery models and new business models. As a part of this longer-term transformation, IoMT provides many benefits, including improved patient outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and increased patient engagement.

Allowing access to real-time data and critical patient information provide improved patient outcomes. The data provided by internet enabled medical devices delivers more accurate diagnoses and can reduce errors ensuring better patient care and outcomes. This critical data can be used to improve individual patient care, as well as aggregate care. Combining data in an anonymous, HIPAA compliant way allows providers to more easily identify patterns to improve diagnoses as well as treatment.

IoMT technologies can also lower healthcare costs by facilitating more remote patient care, which lowers the cost to both the provider and the patient. The technology also helps manage chronic diseases more effectively, which is a way of cutting costs before more extensive care is needed.

Another key benefit of IoMT is patient engagement.  IoMT devices encourage patients to play a larger role in their own healthcare management.  From keeping track of exercise to monitoring critical medical data such as insulin levels, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more, IoMT devices drive patients to take a higher interest in managing their own care.  Even devices such as Amazon’s Alexa are playing a pivotal role in driving patient engagement with their HIPAA compliant skills such as documenting health goals and progress towards them, ordering and tracking prescription deliveries, scheduling appointments, tracking blood sugar readings, and providing updates to care teams.

Examples of IoMT Devices

Internet connected devices are making a significant impact on patient care and patient outcomes already.  For example, in a 2018 clinical trial, cancer patients were given access to Bluetooth enabled scales and blood pressure cuffs along with an app that tracked their systems.  They used these devices to send updates to their physicians.   The results of this trial demonstrated that the patients who had access to these IoMT devices experienced less severe symptoms as compared to a control group.

Bruce E. Johnson, President of ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology), said that the smart technology “helped simplify care for both patients and their care providers by enabling emerging side effects to be identified and addressed quickly and efficiently to ease the burden of treatment.”

Managing diabetes with a continuous glucose monitor is another example of the impact IoMT devices are making in healthcare. These devices allow people with diabetes to monitor their glucose levels by sending the data to a smartphone app. By utilizing this monitoring system, people with diabetes can get instant information and monitor trends. The information can also be made available to parents or caregivers.

Boston Scientific’s HeartLogic claims it can predict potential heart failures weeks in advance. This device is a remote diagnostic and monitoring solution that uses sensors to detect and report early signs of heart failure. It monitors the sounds of your heart, your breathing patterns, heart rate and activity level and measures fluid accumulation. All of these key items can determine heart issues in advance and save lives.

One of the first smart contact lenses available, made by Triggerfish, monitors intraocular pressure and provides continual monitoring to aide in glaucoma treatment.

FDA Clears Sensimed Triggerfish
FDA Clears Sensimed Triggerfish

InWith Corporation, in partnership with Bausch and Lomb, is working towards analyzing tears for blood chemistry that could monitor cancer, blood sugar, and virus detection.

Challenges for Advancing IoMT

Healthcare is facing many challenges as it makes the shift from reactive to proactive care and the Internet of Medical Things is facing challenges along with it. Data is incredibly helpful, but it also part of the problem. Sharing data via IoMT devices brings up privacy issues and data integrity/security issues. Just as the internet can be hacked, so can these devices, along with their connection to healthcare systems.

Interoperability and adoption are key challenges as well. Hospitals and other provider locations often customize their systems and connecting to these systems will be a critical step forward. There are a number of challenges in overcoming this interoperability challenge but overcoming it is crucial for all healthcare providers.

Another critical challenge facing the Internet of Medical Things is a lack of talent. IoMT companies need to focus on digital-first and must hire talent that has that digital savvy background. These companies will also need multidisciplinary associates who have creative as well as scientific backgrounds.

With close collaboration between IoMT companies and healthcare providers, The Internet of Medical Things is poised to play a truly significant role in shifting from reactive care to proactive care.

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