Diagnostic Directions - The Internet of medical things

December 29, 2015
By: Bipin Thomas

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is the network of wireless medical devices and applications that connect with health care systems through real-time computing power. It is a unifying platform that addresses the “Internet of Things” needs for the medical industry. Examples of IoMT include remote monitoring of patients with chronic conditions; tracking patient medication orders and the location of patients admitted to hospitals; and patients’ wearable devices, which can send information to caregivers. Infusion pumps transmitting data in real time to clinicians’ dashboards and hospital beds rigged with sensors measuring patients’ vital signs are medical devices accelerating the deployment of IoMT technology.

By 2020, experts predict that more than 20 billion everyday objects will be able to capture, receive and share data via a vast, interconnected global network linked together by inexpensive sensors and cloud computing power. Health care laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 that protects the privacy and security of patient data, and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 which supports the creation of national health care infrastructure, are among the strong factors in the growth and development of a secured infrastructure for IoMT.

The Need for an IoMT Platform
The health care industry is in need of an Internet of Things platform delivering consumer-centric care with an integrated set of health care services from the providers, payers, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical/life sciences companies. All these entities in the health care value chain are shifting from a product-centric view to a consumer/patient view. The consumer is in the middle of it all, no longer the product. IoMT plays a pivotal role in bringing the care team together to improve patient engagement across the continuum of care.

The HITECH Act and new policies for the meaningful use of patient care data now allow for increased monitoring of the patient at home that is beyond an off-the-shelf wearable. Health care needs to go where the patient is. The hospital or exam room is no longer the boundary. It’s about creating the ecosystem around the patient. How do you bring technology capabilities to the patient to get the biometric data and functional status on a real-time basis when they are not in the hospital or at their care provider?

This is what is driving the need for an IoMT platform that can connect with the patient and collect data for meaningful clinical decisions. Several major industry groups and governance bodies have emerged to establish standards-based guidelines and security for connected health technologies such as sensors, remote monitoring devices, tablets and smartphones, and gateways, as well as networked and cloud solutions.

Continua is an international not-for-profit industry group and the leading organization promoting global technology industry standards to develop end-to-end, plug-and-play connectivity for personal connected health. Continua’s design guidelines, based on global industry standards and test tools, enable more efficient, standardized development, and create new market opportunities for interoperable personal health devices and services used to collect and relay vital health information and education.

Consumer-centric Design Approach
Currently, the main issue for medical device manufacturers is the ability to design and build IoMT as part of the product design and development cycle. Companies such as Amazon, Nike and Uber have shaken up the competitive landscape by raising the bar on consumer expectations. They don’t just provide useful products and services, they create unique experiences that people love. They do it by applying a user-centered perspective that unearths opportunities to create products and services that delight and empower customers. It is important to launch smart wireless medical devices for IoMT that can be used by patients without any setup or learning curve.

The medical device companies have to design every product with user experience and personalization in mind. The devices are going to be increasingly used by patients at home in an unsupervised environment. The device must work the moment the patient gets it, with no setup, no assembly, no downloads and no syncing required. The device should be used in the exact same way as the regular, non-connected version of the device, so it’s simple for the user. The battery in these devices should last for multiple months without needing to be recharged.

The IoMT is transforming the way medical devices are used for delivering personalized care. Patients will be the group that ultimately decides which devices will be adopted, so we must always remember to design these devices and tools for patients above all else. It is also remarkable that IoMT is getting much more established with wide adoption of connected devices in the health care industry. The future is focusing more on a network of smart medical devices, and health care is adopting IoMT platforms with an aim to improve personalized care overall.

About the author: Bipin Thomas is a renowned global thought-leader on consumer-centric health care transformation. Thomas is an editorial advisory board member of DOTmed HealthCare Business News and chairman of ICURO, a consumer-centric digital care outcomes research and management organization, where he is redefining personalized care delivery by connecting all stakeholders in the emerging health care ecosystem.