Jan 16 2020

How the Internet of Medical Things Is Impacting Healthcare

The rise in the number of connected medical devices comes at a critical time as barriers to access health services continue to increase.

Consider your most recent healthcare interaction. It likely involved some sort of medical device or equipment — a blood pressure monitor, a continuous glucose monitor, maybe even an MRI scanner.

This should come as no surprise: More than 500,000 medical technologies are currently available, according to a recent Deloitte report.

Today’s internet-connected devices are being designed to improve efficiencies, lower care costs and drive better outcomes in healthcare. As computing power and wireless capabilities improve, organizations are leveraging the potential of Internet of Medical Things technologies.

With their ability to collect, analyze and transmit health data, IoMT tools are rapidly changing healthcare delivery. For patients and clinicians, these applications are playing a central part in tracking and preventing chronic illnesses — and they’re poised to evolve the future of care.

But how exactly does this connected ecosystem work? And what is the real difference between the Internet of Things and IoMT?

What Is IoMT?

The IoMT is a connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, and health systems and services. 

And while a growing pool and general adoption of IoT technologies are benefiting many industries, it’s a wave of sensor-based tools — including wearables and stand-alone devices for remote patient monitoring — and the marriage of internet-connected medical devices with patient information that ultimately set the IoMT ecosystem apart.

The rise of IoMT is driven by “an increase in the number of connected medical devices that are able to generate, collect, analyze or transmit health data or images and connect to healthcare provider networks, transmitting data to either a cloud repository or internal servers,” the Deloitte report notes.

Ultimately, this connectivity between medical devices and sensors is streamlining clinical workflow management and leading to an overall improvement in patient care, both inside care facility walls and in remote locations.

The Potential of IoMT in Healthcare

The capabilities of IoMT are more accurate diagnoses, fewer mistakes and lower costs of care. Paired with smartphone applications, the technology allows patients to send their health information to doctors in order to better surveil diseases and track and prevent chronic illnesses.

In fact, a study conducted by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA demonstrates the ability of Fitbit activity trackers to more accurately evaluate patients with ischemic heart disease by recording their heart rate and accelerometer data simultaneously. That helps explain why mHealthIntelligence reports that 88 percent of care providers are investing in remote patient monitoring solutions.

This type of technology is not only helping to improve the patient experience by eliminating the need for in-person medical visits, but it’s also helping to reduce costs. Goldman Sachs estimates that IoMT will save the healthcare industry $300 billion annually in expenditures primarily through remote patient monitoring and improved medication adherence. 

That said, another positive effect of IoMT is on drug management via the introduction of “smart pills” that contain microscopic sensors, which, once swallowed, can transmit data to connected devices. 

Some digital medicine companies, such as Proteus Discover, have focused their smart pill capabilities on measuring medication treatment effectiveness to improve clinical outcomes. Others, such as HQ’s CorTemp, are using the pills to monitor patients’ internal health, wirelessly transmitting data such core temperature — measurements that can be critical in life or death situations.

READ MORE: Discover how IoMT will evolve to better fit healthcare needs in 2020.

IoMT Is Well Positioned for Growth

The global IoMT market was valued at $44.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $254.2 billion in 2026, according to AllTheResearch. The smart wearable device segment of IoMT, inclusive of smartwatches and sensor-laden smart shirts, made up for the largest share of the global market in 2018, at roughly 27 percent, the report finds. 

This area of IoMT is poised for even further growth as artificial intelligence is integrated into connected devices and can prove capable of the real-time, remote measurement and analysis of patient data.

The IoMT ecosystem expansion is paving the way for other new technologies too, such as kiosks that provide connectivity to care providers. These kiosks will further enable clinicians to monitor and treat patients remotely — an ever-growing need for patients in rural communities as they struggle to recruit and retain medical specialists. 

Regardless of a patient’s location or condition, an evolution of the IoMT ecosystem will become increasingly impactful. And even the most remote locations will benefit from better access to care as connected medical devices continue to find their way into the hands of both patients and clinicians.

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