IoMT is the fastest and most optimal way to make hospitals more efficient, provide doctors with the most relevant patient information, and speed up medical processes.
Technology applied to healthcare has reached a new dimension with the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). The evolution of technology over the last decade has led the healthcare sector to a tremendous improvement in many of its procedures, devices and medicines. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Big Data and the internet of things are making a decisive contribution to this. The use of medical devices capable of monitoring patients and sending patient data in real time, being able to assess their state of health and intervening even before a problem occurs, has changed the future of medicine and healthcare forever.
In this article, we take a closer look at IoMT to find out exactly what it is, its possibilities in healthcare today, its benefits and the risks that come with it.
What is IoMT?
The healthcare sector is undergoing a unique and unstoppable transformation, and its future will be more consumer-centric, results-driven and prevention-oriented than ever before.
Key concepts in this transformation include digitalisation, personalised medical care with tools for predictive, participatory and preventive care, and the issue of rising costs due to an ageing population. This is why healthcare organisations are already focusing primarily on optimising costs, simplifying processes, optimising sizing and using cutting-edge technology to make everything more efficient.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has a big part to play in this transformation of the healthcare sector. What is IoMT in concrete terms? It is about medical devices capable of communicating via the internet to transfer patient information. They are medical devices and applications dedicated to the digitisation and transformation of healthcare processes.
“Its potential to transform healthcare comes from its ability to change forever the shape and volume of data collected in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, combining leading technical and technological trends in mobility, automation and data analytics to improve patient care.
How IoMT works and its potential
What IoT does for the medical sector is to leverage networks of physical objects through the use of embedded sensors, actuators and other devices capable of capturing and transmitting information about network activity in real time. How? Through this connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications and healthcare systems and services.
There are currently more than 500,000 active medical technologies available. That gives a glimpse of the tremendous potential. And according to a study by Zebra Technologies, 9 out of 10 companies are ready to implement this technology, and more than half of the organisations in the industry have already acquired IoT solutions or are in the process of doing so.
The Internet of Things in the medical sector is inevitable, and it’s only going to get bigger. In fact, according to Business Insider, the IoT market will grow to $400 billion by the end of 2022 due to increased demand, better network coverage and 5G connectivity, and improved technology at all levels.
In this transformation process, healthcare IoT devices will also become very important over the next five years. Juniper Research has stated that by 2026 hospitals will deploy 7.4 million Internet of Medical Things devices, a total growth of 231% over 2021.
“IoMT is a full-fledged revolution in the field of medicine that allows for more precise knowledge of the patient’s situation, more effective treatment and significant savings in healthcare.
Benefits and advantages of IoMT
The medical sector is constantly growing and innovating, and in the coming years this trend will be marked mainly by the development of new diseases and the growth and ageing of the population.
Against this backdrop, IoMT is increasingly gaining ground for its efficiency, service optimisation and potential. In short, for improving healthcare and speeding up the work of medical professionals.
The benefits of intelligent analysis of the data generated by IoMT devices include early detection of diseases, speeding up diagnosis and providing the most appropriate treatment, and identifying risk factors for suicide, alcohol abuse or drug use.
There is much more: blood glucose meters that send data directly to the healthcare professional, smart inhalers to improve respiratory treatments, drug delivery systems to send alerts to patients about their treatments… the potential is immense, beyond the possibility of more accurate diagnoses, fewer errors and lower care costs.
In health care, IoT holds the key to relieve healthcare facilities and provide a better work-life balance, as well as helping to reduce the number of patients suffering from chronic diseases. Through IoMT and smart sensors connected to its network, everyday lifestyles, health and environmental conditions can be analysed and monitored…
By reducing clerical work, we reduce errors in diagnosis and treatment at the same time, as health centres can verify the patient’s history without relying on the patient to first call their other doctors to check and verify their medical history.
In summary, the main items that condense the major advantages of the Internet of Things in the health sector are:
- Better care for the patient by being able to provide personalised and more in-depth follow-up.
- Increased efficiency of health care workers and available medical resources.
- Better identification of the patient’s diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment.
- Disease prevention, which reduces the need for future health care and health costs.
- Support in patient monitoring.
IoMT issues and challenges
As we can see, IoMT brings an unprecedented flow of data. This logically creates challenges in terms of performance, operations, network infrastructure management and security risks. Therefore, all healthcare facilities will need a connected infrastructure (wifi, power grid, bluetooth, barcodes, security sensors…) capable of meeting security and privacy requirements and managing huge data flows, while remaining easy to manage and operate.
Perhaps the biggest problem faced, due to the numerous devices and sensors in the IoT network, is security. Reducing the risks of cybercrime is crucial. As the Internet of Things can revolutionise the medical industry, it is also an open invitation to cybercriminals who want to blackmail hospitals and patients, steal data and cause real harm.
Another important issue is the possibility of power outages in connected equipment. Especially in the case of IoMT systems, we cannot omit any software or hardware updates, for example.
“Perhaps the biggest problem faced, due to the numerous devices and sensors in the IoT network, is security. Reducing the risks of cybercrime is crucial. As the Internet of Things can revolutionise the medical industry, it is also an open invitation to cybercriminals who want to blackmail hospitals and patients, steal data and cause real harm.
IoT applications in the health sector
The IoT solutions being implemented in the healthcare sector cover a wide range of areas, including:
Thanks to this technology, we can use sensors that report valuable physiological information about the individual, knowing much more about the hospitalised patient’s condition.
The IoT allows the remote provision of healthcare services by medical professionals, using information and communication technologies, to break down countless barriers in order to attend to patients and provide a response to their pathology. We are talking about monitoring patients with chronic illnesses from their homes, making video calls to ask questions or follow their condition in real time…
These devices continuously collect data on the activity and functions of each individual/patient, so that medical equipment can know their vital signs and identify the evolution of their condition, providing information on the quality of sleep, calorie expenditure, etc.
Thanks to IoT, there are applications in hospitals that allow patients to control the brightness and temperature of their room, the inclination of their bed, order food or call the doctor from their smartphones.
They are used to speed up the delivery of medical supplies and products such as medicines, samples (blood, urine, or skin, for example), and other medical supplies.
By combining elements of virtual reality and real environments, we help improve patient safety, perform major operations more easily and successfully, and provide better training for healthcare staff.
IoMT case studies
One of the first industries to embrace IoMT was pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical companies use the Internet of Things to remotely monitor temperature during the transport and storage of vaccines.
Some hospitals use these devices to locate all patients at all times, even from home, which allows them to better control and organise their staff, help patients avoid subsequent hospital visits through a symptom tracking app, etc.
Today we also have electronic medication products that remind the user to take their medication again, which are even equipped with digestible sensors that trigger a notification to the user if they have skipped taking the medication or did not take it on time.
On the other hand, these smart devices recommend the best time and the right dose for the next insulin injection in diabetics.
In turn, devices such as smart wristbands and other wearables monitor patients in real time to reduce waiting times, administer drugs, manage the hospital pharmacy and improve care, with the goal of achieving Zero Risk.