Consider this for a minute or two: it’s estimated that there are now over half a billion different types of medical devices available globally. The IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) enables these devices to collect, interpret and disseminate health data via the cloud and it’s predicted that within the next ten years the number of connected medical devices across the world could exceed 50 billion. These devices, combined with rich sensor data, integrated apps, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, will help to connect healthcare providers, patients and medical records systems across the world. This will have significant ramifications for the entire healthcare ecosystem, both in terms of the quality of healthcare patients receive and reduction of operational costs through IoMT implementation. We recently discovered how emerging technologies are driving a revolution in healthcare and asked the question: what are digital health services and technologies? Today we’re exploring how the IoMT is transforming healthcare.
What is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
The Internet of Medical Things represents the connected sum of all physical devices (mobile), sensors, software (apps) and electronics and how these discrete elements communicate and share data with one another, within the field of healthcare and medicine. The broader sphere of the IoT is already impacting multiple industry sectors, from oil and gas and fintech to energy and heavy industry, although it’s impact in the field of medicine and healthcare is arguably the most personal and profound in terms of future potential.
It’s estimated that by the year 2020, over 40% of the entire IoT ecosystem will be directly related to healthcare, which is bigger than any other market category and represents a $117 billion commercial opportunity.
The IoMT represents the convergence of various technologies and medical informatics and has the potential to reduce costs, minimise operational inefficiencies and save lives and there are a number of tangible elements that will form the IoMT as adoption gathers pace. From wearables that measure glucose levels, blood pressure, insulin and body temperature, to electronic health records stored via the cloud and a plethora of new apps and devices, the IoMT will bring about a medical revolution.
The Dramatic Rise Of IoMT In Healthcare
Recent analysis conducted by Allied Market Research predicts meteoric growth in IoMT device and app adoption. The report suggested that between now and 2021, the global market for IoMT devices and apps will exceed $136 billion. It’s estimated that the current number of web connected devices designed to support healthcare monitoring, reporting and notifications is over 3.7 million. There are a number of key elements that are fuelling the phenomenal growth of the IoMT, particularly the widespread and increasing availability of wearables and the ever-decreasing cost of sensor based technology.
The other key driver is mobile. Recent innovations in mobile technology, such as the onset of RFID (radio frequency identification tags) and NFC (near field communication) tags have better enabled medical IT systems to communicate seamlessly with smartphones and tablets. The other key factor to consider when exploring growth in the IoMT is an increase in the growth of chronic illnesses and an increased need to find more affordable, technology-driven solutions in healthcare. Healthcare providers are now placing more emphasis on innovation and experimentation with new medical prototypes and proof of concept initiatives, in pursuit of optimal patient outcomes and operational cost reduction.
Growth in IoMT adoption has also been accelerated via roll-outs of super fast, high speed broadband, government and regulatory policies have also shifted in favour of leveraging the capabilities of new tech to drive innovation, cut costs and better manage patient care and wellbeing.
How the IoMT Will Ease The Burden Of An Ageing Population
As the number of elderly people rises globally in parallel with overall life expectancy, the cost of associated healthcare will increase and so too will the demand for affordable health care services, solutions and technologies. The IoMT will provide a timely remedy to help address the added pressure on communities and healthcare providers. It offers the potential to not only reduce costs, but also enhance the quality of care.
“It’s predicted that by the year 2025, approximately 15% of the world’s population will be elderly. This equates to 1.2 billion elderly people of a forecasted global population of 8 billion”
There are a number of ailments that are specific to an ageing population that the IoMT can help to solve. As patients age, the need to monitor vital signs and track the performance of the heart becomes more pertinent. Other health indicators that are particularly relevant to an ageing population include the need to track activity levels, glucose and sleep. Another key consideration when designing IoMT solutions is the fact that elderly people will sometimes forget to take appropriate medication, or in some cases mismanage dosage levels. IoMT related innovations can help to set timely reminders of when medication should be taken and what medication.
Another practical example of the IoMT in action is the use of mobile diagnostic devices to simplify and speed up blood and urine testing. This is ideal for an ageing population in the sense that mobility can sometimes be an issue, making it difficult for elderly patients to access testing services. The other consideration is the fact that elderly patients need to access these types of testing services more frequently. The use of mobile diagnostic devices also enables testing data to be analysed, recorded and sent to the clinician directly, without the need for the patient to be physically present at the doctors office. This in turn helps to reduce patient congestion in the waiting room.
This also works well for elderly patients who have mobility related challenges and further emphasises the benefits the IoMT can provide in terms of remote assistance. It empowers the family members of elderly patients to provide wearable devices that can track routines and build up a rich source of data around the habits of the individual (and the extent to which these habits are predictable).
This enables family members to identify irregularities in the data and respond to situations whereby the elderly patient might be in danger. For memory-care patients, geofencing can play a crucial role in terms of understanding if the individual has crossed a specific boundary and to notify the caregiver or family member of any associated risk.
Leveraging the IoMT To Follow Doctor’s Orders
There is a widespread perception that the IoMT is primarily used for the purposes of diagnosis. At present, the most widespread use of IoMT (and arguably the most impactful) is its ability to ensure that patients can closely follow the instructions of the doctor. IoMT apps and devices can dramatically enhance healthcare providers ability to deliver meaningful data in real-time to assist with more accurate diagnoses and plans for treatment. These technologies can also reduce operational inefficiency and minimise resource consumption and wastage. There are a range of additional business functions that the IoMT can enhance, from process efficiency and workflow optimisation, to the integration of new medical apps and devices and managing inventory with increased precision.
The onset of new IoMT technologies is already having a transformative impact. In a traditional healthcare setting, doctors and healthcare professionals would largely have to rely on subjective input from the patient. This presented major challenges in that the information the doctor received was not always accurate and there was an over-reliance on the patient to provide the right information. In these situations there tends to be a lack of high quality information flowing between the patient and the doctor and where information lacks quality, the patient would ultimately suffer as a consequence in terms of diagnostic accuracy and subsequent treatment planning activity. The IoMT is now changing the way in which information is transmitted from the patient to the healthcare professional. Rather than relying on a subjective view of how the patient feels, IoMT apps and devices can be leveraged to monitor patient activity, vital signs and behaviour 24 hours per day, every day of the year. The key factor to consider here is that patients can now be monitored outside of the clinical setting on a real-time basis, helping to provide the doctor with a transparent view of the extent to which the patient is adhering to instruction.
Connected Devices & The IoMT
Connected devices and apps can enable internal surveillance of a patient in ways that were never previously possible. Devices such as pacemakers can now be connected to the web, with associated data and analytics stored in the cloud and tracked on an ongoing basis. This means that healthcare professionals can now access patient data from any device, at any time and if required, from any location. This data, in combination with AI, can be leveraged in numerous different ways to help assist with optimal diagnosis and treatment planning. Doctors can now view patient data based on a specific date range to measure performance over time. Data sets for specific time periods can also be compared directly to previous time segments to provide a clearer picture of improvement in the health of the patient.
Similarly, these data analysis techniques can be leveraged to assess if patients are not trending in the right direction as a consequence of not following the instructions of the doctor. Medical professionals can now monitor the evolution of a specific disease over time to determine future care plans and treatments with increased efficiency.
The key theme here is patient hyper-personalisation and understanding how the IoMT can be harnessed to enhance care planning and subsequent programs of treatment. Hyper-personalisation provides a range of benefits in terms of the design and development of bespoke pharmaceuticals and understanding the unique biological requirements of each patient. Highly innovative IoMT technologies are crucial in terms of accelerating the extent to which doctors and healthcare professionals can deliver a hyper-personalised level of care and treatment.
How to Resource IoMT Projects
The number of connected medical devices and apps is set to grow exponentially in the next three to five years. As the IoMT starts to expand rapidly, this will present enormous opportunities for healthcare companies, both in terms of revenue generation and delivering an increased quality of care to patients. If you’re tasked with delivering an IoMT initiative and are unsure where to start, the plethora of options available can often seem daunting. If you’re keen to get something started quickly, there are four readily available options: recruit specialist software development capability on a full-time basis, retrain existing software development professionals from within your company, or outsource your requirements to a trusted external development partner. The fourth option is to use a hybrid approach whereby external software development capability can be used in conjunction with internal development resources.
The healthcare sector is undergoing an astonishing transformation driven by new technological innovations and the IoMT. The rate of innovation is now accelerating dramatically, as the number of web connected medical devices starts to explode. The onset of these new technologies represents the dawn of an exciting new frontier for healthcare professionals and patients alike. At the heart of each new innovation represents a desire to be able to track patients medical activity more accurately and in real-time, thus providing doctors with dynamic new medical insight to assist in both the detection and prevention of potentially life threatening illnesses and disease. For healthcare companies, the commercial potential of these new innovations in IoMT are enormous and so too is the scope for providing better outcomes for patients. In order to capitalise on these new opportunities, healthcare companies and professionals will need to better understand how to resource IoMT initiatives effectively and there are a number of options worthy of exploration. If you’re working on behalf of a healthcare company and are interested in the awesome capabilities of the IoMT, we’d love to hear from you directly. Contact Waracle today to get started.