Internet of Medical Things
In 2021, we can no longer ignore the power of digital transformations in healthcare. Past and current world events have been highly dramatic and now go beyond bearable proportions. We have already exceeded the capacity of the Earth's ecosystem, together with the new fallout from the pandemic, which is showing industry leaders the importance of making radical changes and finding ways to meet emerging challenges.
Fortunately for us, networking can help us make a difference in many aspects. By the way, recent research reports the future of the healthcare industry is moving toward the adoption of the concept of the Internet of Medical Devices.
You may wonder why. Well, if you’ve heard anything about IoT technology, you will probably realize that this concept is useful for developing real-time and more effective solutions through machine-to-machine communication. In previous articles we considered IoT applications in home automation, the transportation industry, logistics, agriculture, and other leading industries.
So, now it seems like the right time to evaluate the use of IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) concepts in the healthcare industry.
So, what is the potential of the Internet of Medical Things? How exactly is the IoMT approach contributing to the new value system in medicine and healthcare? What opportunities can it demonstrate from a business perspective?
Let’s find the answers.
What is the Internet of Medical Things?
Starting with a variety of medtech instruments, products, tools, scanners, we can imagine how many components are needed to deliver medical care. Here, IoT technology offers to connect this wide range of devices to generate, collect, transmit and analyze vital patient data. This intelligent human-to-machine interaction offers remote health monitoring in real-time, drives patient engagement in decision making and improves medical operations and services. So, the Internet of Medical Things is an interdependent system of connected devices that forms a single infrastructure of health systems and services. It makes healthcare services accessible from anywhere through applications on internet-based devices.
The connected environment of IoMT provides real-time data acquisition and in-depth analytics to improve efficiency, lower healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes. It benefits both patients and healthcare providers.
On the patient’s side, IoMT is capable of engaging and empowering them by providing real-time physician interventions in emergency situations, reducing morbidity and cutting costs by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital visits. As a result, the new approach makes a significant and improved difference to patient wellbeing. For example, it offers remote monitoring of chronic diseases, drug and illness management, improved treatment and diagnosis, and ultimately, improved patient care.
On the healthcare providers side, the medical internet of things reduces the financial burden on health systems, prevents medical worker shortages by reducing patient visits and improves response time in emergency situations. In turn, it can also result in improved overall effectiveness of clinical staff.
Thus, the implementation of the Internet of Things in healthcare is definitely increasing human-machine interaction and creating new values for personalized approaches. The IoMT concept improves patient experience, improves equity in healthcare and assists in data-driven decisions through remote health monitoring.
Potential of IoMT in Healthcare
Considering the potential of IoMT in healthcare settings, it is pertinent to discuss current opportunities and trends.
There is some correlation between the benefits and growth of IoMT potential. For instance, during the pandemic, both hospitals and patients faced a lot of issues. Previous problems with hospital visits, drug purchases, testing, and health monitoring can now be analyzed and weighed against the effectiveness of traditional approaches.
Firstly, with the IoMT approach, the current problems are easier to solve with the convenient and efficient use of medical equipment for remote monitoring.
Secondly, as we all know, the implementation of the concept of connected devices could solve other related problems. For example, health facilities are not always accessible to people living in remote or rural areas. Here, IoMT approaches can provide an instantaneous and effective response to such patients, even from a distance.
Moreover, anticipating the comprehensive value of connected medical devices, the number of connected devices will increase. It is predicted that in the next five years, the development of related medical technologies will grow by 10-15%. There are more and more factors forcing medtech companies to evolve with the potential of IoMT. The aforementioned benefits speak for themselves.
The next opportunity healthcare professionals may find attractive is to structure the vast data generated in healthcare organizations into a common platform to create greater clinical and operational value. As a result, improved efficiency in health operations will translate into improved performance in other health systems. It is also possible that medical technology companies will have to adapt existing business and operating models to a new value-based system. In turn, it will make their business more sustainable and competitive.
Anyway, on a market landscape, the IoMT technology is estimated to be worth $158.1 billion in 2022. We can now better understand that the pervasive growth of the IoMT market is primarily driven by the increased need to reduce costs and make better and faster decisions when caring for patients.
Internet of Medical Things Architecture
Currently, IoT technology is perceived as a connected environment with a rather complex architecture. The complexity is caused by the number of components that interact with each other to create solutions for users. What’s more, the system is interdependent and enables data collection, device connectivity, data transfers, and in-depth analytics to control end applications.
So, let’s move on to discussing three layers of the macro-level of IoMT architecture. Namely: analytic solutions, device connectivity and data layer, and local patient systems and controls. This can be represented as:
What are the structural and functional aspects of each component?
Local Systems and Control Layer
As a rule, one of the distinctive features of IoT technology is decentralized intelligence. Under this concept, each medical device is empowered with intelligent control capabilities to facilitate operational data processing and help the central server. As a rule, such devices are enabled with sensors that measure parameters, converters, and controllers. Converters are needed to generate a digital input, whereas controllers are reliant on the inputs received from converters and network interfaces to make real-time decisions and share data with other machines. For example, such devices are implants, wearable monitors, and some diagnostic devices used by the doctor.
At the device level, several factors are driving the widespread adoption of IoT solutions. These are compatibility and the integration of advanced electronics. These devices collect patient biometric data in real-time for secure transmission to a higher level of architecture. Encryption devices and actuators transport the transformed data to the next level of the IoMT ecosystem for preliminary diagnosis.
Device Connectivity and Data Layer
The main purpose of this layer is to focus on data collected on networked devices and storing it in predefined data stores. Technologies at this level are responsible for the secure transfer of medical data, management of large amounts of data, and quality assurance. Moreover, such technologies are not unique at these levels and are based on the input requirements. Among popular representatives in providing these advanced technologies, there are the networking firms Cisco and Oracle.
Analytic Solutions Layer
At the analytic solutions layer, the key element is the central/remote server. Multiple devices and other system components transmit the gathered data over the network to the server. The in-built server is already equipped with the required algorithms to perform operational data analysis in real-time and generate actionable insights. From a medical standpoint, it helps in the process of predicting illness, diagnosing, and prescribing preventive measures.
Practical applications of similar healthcare solutions can be found in chronic illness management, remote patient monitoring, and various interventions.
Perhaps the most exciting part is to read about real IoMT devices that have been conceptualized in the form of medical intelligent assistants that can serve different life needs. Smart wearable devices, medical devices for home use and mobile healthcare applications are typical IoMT devices that act as a bridge between patients, and medical experts, who can regularly manage health conditions from remote locations. Let's now discuss in more detail the most popular areas of IoMT application.
Consumer Health Wearables
Over the past few years, smartwatches have become clinically viable healthcare tools that are steadily spreading across the population. In the IoMT environment, these devices are developed to measure and monitor different health conditions. Consumers can wear these electronic devices, known as smartwatches, that collect data relating to personal health and exercise. For example, there are portable blood pressure monitors that can measure blood pressure in various everyday conditions of the consumer. Or, any smartwatch for health with the ability to measure temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, etc.
As a result, the various parameters can be stored and transmitted to a personal physician for determining the patient's health status or optimizing treatment.
In the space of telemedicine technologies, a special place is given to remote patient monitoring systems. The RPM system enables transparent communication between a wide range of smart devices and medical experts. Previously, we have already mentioned the main aspects that have become widespread in most clinical domains. Though, the major benefits of this machine-enabled intelligence are primarily driven by an increase in health care resource productivity and the ability to accumulate, process, and analyze patient health data to manage treatment plans, medication intake, or track any vital changes. Reducing healthcare costs, in-person medical visits is achieved through the ability to migrate monitoring, administration, or routing tasks to IoMT machines.
Anyway, there are different examples of RPM use cases. Read our article on RPM systems to find out more.
Hospitals & Clinics
From the perspective of hospital networks, the medical Internet of Things can play a rather important role in optimizing all medical department processes. For example, patient flow is a complex process with many different stakeholders and functions involved. In this way, IoT software solutions can help cope with peak patient volumes, bed shortages, and other changes. With a well-coordinated real-time system, treatment quality and efficiency can be achieved throughout the hospital. Along with patient flow management, the demands for care can be achieved quickly and effectively. As a result, improved patient outcomes and staff satisfaction are guaranteed.
Another useful IoMT application for hospitals and clinics can be found in inventory or asset management systems. Often, the lack of accurate and real-time visibility of inventory across multiple hospital facilities creates additional inefficiency. To avoid costly expenses, over-ordering, or wasted supplies, IoMT can meet the goals of hospitals by offering solutions to these problems.
Chronic Disease Management
IoMT-enabled devices can also offer to monitor and manage chronic illness conditions. Such devices are very useful for people suffering from diabetes, cardiac failure recovery, and hypertension. Body parameters such as blood sugar, blood pressure, electrolyte concentration, and weight are especially important for regular monitoring in these cases. Thus, with the help of real-time data collected by smart devices, it can be transmitted to a higher level for analysis and adoption of future therapies or changes in drug doses. Moreover, centralized data collection is useful for predicting the progression of an illness or studying some epidemiological trends in a specific group.
Privacy & Data Security in IoMT
There is no reason to underestimate the potential risks if you neglect the privacy and data security concerns of the IoMT. Let’s dedicate a few paragraphs to this issue.
Firstly, IoT technology consists of a huge number of smart devices in healthcare that can be vulnerable to security breaches and pose real risks to data security in terms of the whole ecosystem. Secondly, the automation of healthcare monitoring is based on the exchange of huge amounts of data. It is clear that data transmission is one of the most vulnerable processes. Thus, situations with an irregular network connection, where this data can be stolen or insecurely transferred, can also become a privacy issue.
Sometimes the high cost and scale of the potential failure can be significant and adversely affect other components of the system. Besides, the significance of mitigating cybersecurity risks of medical devices is especially high, since it is often a matter of life and death. That is why, it is reasonable to find optimal solutions before the IoMT system is severely damaged.
Existing companies are now trying to protect IoMT devices in different ways. However, general recommendations and current solutions to mitigate the mentioned risks are as follows:
The level of logging and monitoring of network traffic should be given due priority and embedded with better detection controls;
It is necessary to verify the computing code and implement access control and dynamic data analysis to avoid any attacks;
A data access control ensures who has certain rights to access the resources. Therefore, strong credential management policies need to be in place to handle large amounts of data reliably and efficiently;
Implement strong authentication to control access to the IoT ecosystem;
The process of sending data packages should be established according to strong-level policies based on cryptography, credential management, and passwords across the network application;
Real-time service monitoring should be transparent between IoT device interactions;
Along with the Blockchain approach known for its concept of distributed computing, its security systems can operate autonomously in real-time and protect the network by removing a faulty item if it compromises the security system;
Keeping your data secure is another step to consider. Along with verification of the appropriate API security settings or administrative access audit, data leakage will be prevented;
It is recommended that you keep your software up-to-date to avoid new security breaches. When updating, it should be encrypted as much as possible;
Embedding a firewall in the hardware and software of devices connected to the Internet of Things will control the flow of data packages.
By leveraging the best practices for overcoming privacy and data security challenges in IoMT, you are more likely to deflect any malicious cyber invasion. We are deeply convinced, any challenge you may face is a prerequisite for intensive growth of IoT-based architecture components.
To summarize, the Internet of Medical Things is currently demonstrating to providers and patients how smart devices in healthcare are improving various components of the entire industry.
The promising future of the healthcare industry will significantly depend on the evolution of networking technologies. The Internet of Medical Devices will also evolve due to the existing problems and risks of current systems. There is reason to expect the same pace of development in the search for ways to overcome these problems due to the ongoing development of numerous sensors, cloud storage and big data analytics, which are already mature enough to offer workable and affordable solutions.
And, for the record, key benefits such as better living standards, improved patient outcomes and reduced financial burdens for both patients and healthcare providers contribute to the big picture that will become a reality shortly.
Affordable solutions of a connected healthcare ecosystem are now being shaped to be quickly adopted by most health facilities. As a result, our world can look forward to new personalized healthcare that will be successful in many ways.