Defining the Expanding Medical Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) for healthcare is often referred to as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). These include “wireless, interrelated, and connected digital devices that can collect, send, and store data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” Individual or networked sensors and devices that connect to the Internet and share data are being used in various healthcare applications and offer access to better, more accurate, and real-time data for decision-making and care management. The market for IoMT is exploding, expecting to reach $43 billion between 2020-2027. This growth is shepherding in an age where data analytics, coupled with IoMT will scale digital health and deliver better healthcare outcomes, efficiency, and population health benefits.
Examples of IoMT
IoMT refers to any device that collects health-related data from patients. This includes “computing devices, mobile phones, smart bands and wearables, digital medications, implantable surgical devices, or other portable devices, which can measure health data and connect to the internet.” The Journal of Medical Internet Research reported that more than 21 billion devices were connected to the Internet in 2020 – five times the number of devices connected in 2016.
Today, there are a plethora of digital devices. These include physical sensors and digital devices or equipment, as well as software that the FDA considers a medical device. According to the FDA, “software intended to be used for one or more medical purposes that perform these purposes without being part of a hardware medical device to be software as a medical device.”
There are several sub-categories of IoMT, including on-body, in-home, community, in-clinic, and in-hospital.
Examples of more traditional IoMT include pacemakers, smart scales, and wearable heart monitors for home testing. Cutting edge devices include everything from smart thermometers to connected inhalers, wearable wireless biosensors to automated insulin delivery systems. There are devices and software-as-medical-devices that can detect if a person falls or moves, as well as ingestible sensors and cameras that can screen for colon cancer.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused healthcare providers to rely much more heavily on IoMT to keep patients and staff safe – like virtual ICU monitoring – while others helped extend care into the home to keep patients out of the hospital – as in remote monitoring and connected virtual care technologies.
IoMT Unlocks Big Data
The digitalization of healthcare, coupled with the increasing use and variety of connected medical devices and software, delivers more data for analysis and decision-making. More devices generate more data, and more easily accessible data can improve patient outcomes like enhanced population health, avoidable medical incidents, improved safety, and more predictable patterns for prevention and wellness. When combined with artificial intelligence (AI), machine and deep learning, and other analytical techniques, IoMT data holds the key to many modern and value-based healthcare goals.
How IoMT is Key to Virtual and Blended Healthcare
A critical aspect of using more connected sensors and devices is that they enable virtual and blended types of care from anywhere – home, hospital, clinic, community. When people can access data and patients at any point across the care continuum, and do so remotely, the opportunity for better health, medical intervention, adherence, and care equity is astounding.
How Could Devices, Data, and Connectivity Change Your Patient Care?
Choosing and deploying the right digital technologies requires a strategic view of the patient and user needs, data architecture, and interfaces, as well as a roadmap for successful adoption and scaling. Our multi-disciplinary healthcare, technology, and user design are just three of our teams who work together to make the client’s compelling vision and enable the capabilities to create that vision in the real world.