While many industries have been slow to adopt internet of things (IoT) technology, object-based tech has firmly ingrained itself in the medical device space, heralding a digital transformation in healthcare. The internet of medical things—now cleverly referred to as IoMT—doesn’t just encompass the high-tech equipment used by cutting-edge hospitals. It also includes FitBits, Life Alerts, and other consumer-facing healthcare IT solutions.
In fact, IoMT’s presence in the healthcare sector has spawned an entirely new industry: telehealth, or the remote treatment and care of patients. Medical device companies are partnering with mobile app developers to provide unprecedented functionality, offering patients the ability to use their phones to perform routine tests and send data to their doctors, without ever setting foot in a care facility.
The medical field’s cordial acceptance of IoMT technology is fairly intuitive. As the physical and digital realms merge, it only makes sense the first vehicle we want to integrate new tech with is ourselves. But despite IoMT’s prevalence in medical applications, there are still some challenges it needs to overcome before IT solutions for the healthcare industry become mainstream.
Unlike other industries, where IoT’s impact and the resultant obstacles are still in the realm of speculation, the challenges an IoMt solution faces here are well-defined and widely recognized by medical professionals.
WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF MEDICAL THINGS (IOMT)?
According to a recent report from Deloitte, medical technology companies manufacture more than 500,000 different types of medical devices. From implants like pacemakers to wearable devices like insulin pumps to hospital mainstays like scanners and imaging devices, technology fuels medical treatment and innovation.
But technology’s impact on patient care is nothing new. What is new, however, is the transformative power of IoT solutions. IoT facilitates connectivity between devices, completely free of human interaction. Thanks to connectivity technologies, IoT-enabled devices can communicate with each other in real time. When incorporated into larger systems with data storage, data visualization, and analytics tools, IoT technology can achieve some pretty amazing technical feats. It can automate time-consuming manual processes and tasks. It can improve productivity by providing access to up-to-date data. It can streamline organizations, helping them to run leaner and more efficiently. IoT is changing the way companies do business in multiple different industries, healthcare being chief among them.
IoMT seeks to harness the power of connectivity to deliver integrated networks of medical devices, software applications, and health systems. It has the potential, Deloitte notes, to bring together “the digital and physical worlds to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and treatments, and monitor and modify patient behavior and health status in real time. It also improves health care organizations’ operational productivity and effectiveness by streamlining clinical processes, information, and work flows.”
HOW IOMT IS TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE
With connected medical device technologies, IoMT is powering a new era of innovation in medicine. IoMT devices are allowing for more accurate diagnostics and enabling patients to get valuable care remotely. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting back on the amount of in-person medical visits is extremely important. IoMT solutions enable physicians and patients to have impactful remote visits, which lead to better diagnoses and treatment plans. Additionally, IoMT devices—like wearable tech—can be used to more acutely monitor diseases and chronic conditions around the clock, not just in the doctor’s office. Data gathered from this remote patient monitoring can be instrumental in improving treatment strategies and overall care.
IoMT’s potential stretches far beyond wearable tech and virtual doctor’s appointments. It can create a vast, expansive web of intelligent communication, insightful data analysis, and actionable information sharing to save lives and improve patient experiences. IoMT gives physicians access to intuitive, customizable dashboards, enabling them to engage with patient data in real time. Hospitals can use IoMT to track performance metrics of medical equipment, improving safety and efficiency. The possibilities of a truly connected healthcare ecosystem are endless.
IOMT’S OBSTACLES IN HEALTHCARE
IoMT is spearheading a new wave of digital transformation in the healthcare space. But, like similar large-scale digitization initiatives, it’s not without its challenges. Healthcare technology comes with its own set of risks and hazards. But gaining a solid understanding of the unique challenges IoMT faces can help organizations to implement solutions to mitigate risk.
The essence of IoMT is connectivity, the forging of data channels that were hitherto nonexistent. While this connectivity is the foundation of the IoMT’s value, it’s also its Achilles heel. If it’s easier for you to access your data, it’s easier for hackers too.
While data security issues plague all applications of IoT, it’s especially concerning for the medical industry, which often houses extremely personal information. It’s more than potentially sensitive medical records—patient data can involve highly private financial or insurance info.
It’s not that security measures necessary to protect this data don’t exist—it’s rather the actual implementation and red tape that accompanies it that’s hindering the adoption of IoT tech.
Strictly regulated under the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), off-the-shelf devices—and their accompanying healthcare software solutions—are going to have to undergo a series of hoops and protocols before they can access sensitive medical data.
Going hand-in-hand with cybersecurity concerns, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical care facilities will need to adapt to integrating this often robust technology into their workflow.
These facilities will need to bolster their IT departments, and may even have to restructure their departmental hierarchy to ensure all technology can be properly managed by the staff that needs it. On top of this internal shift, the introduction of new technology must always be accompanied by strong, protective policies to use and manage it effectively.
Further complicating matters is the often byzantine nature of the healthcare industry. The massive amount of data collected by the facility’s IoMT system will have to be managed with consideration of healthcare providers, doctors, patients, and insurance companies.
It doesn’t matter the level of functionality an IoMT solution can provide—it’s useless if it can’t be efficiently managed.
Another inevitable roadblock in the path to an IoMT-powered healthcare system is the consolidation and integration of different devices and the data they collect.
As more and more commercial medical devices become available to healthcare facilities and consumers, decision-makers in the field must develop new ways to structure the communication between these devices, and the integration of all the data collected between them.
New standards and regulations will need to be implemented, and compatibility issues with legacy data and devices must be considered. It’s unfeasible (and ill-advised) for a complete migration to a system exclusively powered by new IoMT technology.
The transition must be gradual, and robust enough to handle both the architecture currently in place and the upcoming shift to an improved, more modern system.
THE PATH FORWARD
IoMT has the potential to revolutionize not just the medical industry, but how we view healthcare on a personal and professional level. Indeed, this technology provides unprecedented insight to doctors and caretakers that can create a more proactive method of treatment.
It’s a difficult needle to thread, but a balance must be struck between policy and infrastructure that regulates and secures the information collected from IoMT devices, without impeding the usability of the technology itself.
Companies that help build and develop IoMT solutions can assist in tackling the complex issues native to IoMT. This is literally life-saving technology, and it’s evident these roadblocks will be surmounted if we are to reap the benefits that IoT can offer.
INCORPORATING IOMT INTO YOUR HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATION
Highly connected healthcare ecosystems have become a reality thanks to IoMT solutions. With a smartphone in every pocket, IoT-enabled devices become commonplace in medical environments, and with access to limitless resources through the cloud, expectations from both medical professionals and patients are changing. Utilizing technology to support this shift has allowed companies to design and implement solutions that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
As a truly innovative agency, Codal has designed and developed applications for a wide variety of sectors, and the healthcare industry is no exception. We’ve engineered web solutions for psychiatric care providers, athletic medical record companies, healthcare transportation services, and medical cosmetology companies.
Codal’s healthcare solutions prioritize compliance and IoMT security while striving to enhance clinical workflows and improve the patient experience. Our diverse portfolio of healthcare clients has not only provided us with different perspectives in the ever-shifting healthcare sector but also with the valuable experience to innovate.
Interested in learning how IoMT solutions can be implemented into your healthcare organization? Reach out to Codal today.