Internet of Things (IoT) is helping smart city infrastructure connect and interact with people to improve their lives in urban environments. A similar phenomenon applied to the healthcare industry is called the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
Precisely, IoMT is a connected infrastructure of software applications, medical devices and equipment, and health systems and services. Smart sensors, wearables among other internet-connected medical devices are paving new possibilities in the healthcare industry. The devices that form IoMT have the capability to generate, gather, interpret and transmit health data and connect to healthcare provider networks. Hence, the technology’s capability is now rapidly moving from hospitals to remote locations. As per Statista, nearly 161 million IoMT devices are estimated to be shipped around the world for installation in the year 2020.
How exactly the IoMT is impacting the healthcare industry is discussed ahead.
Importance Of IoMT In Three Areas
Around the globe, there are many countries that are facing a shortage of healthcare professionals. As a result, this is impacting the hospitals and eventually the healthcare seekers.
A new report from Siemens Financial Services (SFS) shows that digital transformation is addressing the issue by the creation of ‘smart hospitals’ that link to ‘smart healthcare systems.’ Importantly, what bridges the gap is the ‘Internet of Medical Things.’ Experts from health departments, medical associations and acute care organisations identify the importance of IoMT in the healthcare industry.
New research finds that investment in smart hospitals is one of the top three priority areas for digital transformation in UK healthcare. And the other two areas for digitalisation include remote access and telemedicine; and new generation diagnostics.
For example, digitalised asset tracking ensures that the right equipment and technology is available at the right place when required. Digital data gathered from IoMT devices spot warning signs of problems before they occur. This is known as predictive maintenance that encourages the idea – prevention is better than cure. So, with IoMT in place, it has been researched that clinical results have improved with smart hospitals experiencing lower readmission rates for patients. Furthermore, the integration of 5G and Blockchain in smart healthcare is being explored to augment the benefits.
Patient Monitoring In Remote Areas
Elderly Healthcare Management
Across the world, it is predicted that by 2050, there will be two billion people above the age of 60. Out of this, 21% will belong to the age group over 80. In Europe, for example, 18% of the current population is aged over 65. And this number will rise to one in four by 2025.
As per research, this increasing ageing population will pressurise the healthcare industry. Therefore, an entirely new approach based on preventative measures and education is critical. Alongside, an increased focus on wellbeing, independent living, and routine care is important. This is as opposed to immediate cure and treatment that focuses on apparently superficial healthcare. According to Age UK, a charity organisation, the promotion of healthy and active lives will depend on strong community leadership to improve healthcare services. This includes equal access to age-friendly services in which IoMT can have its greatest contribution.
Chronic Disease Management
Be it patient care for any age group, IoMT facilitates remote management that is less labour-intensive, cost-effective, and customised to meet individual patient requirements. The technology paired with smartphones can allow patients to send their health information to doctors from anywhere. This helps better track and monitor patient health and prevent chronic illnesses.
A study performed by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre and UCLA confirms the ability of Fitbit activity trackers. They are more accurate in evaluating patients with ischemic heart disease by recording heart rate and accelerometer data together. And so, this explains the increasing investment in remote patient monitoring technology by healthcare providers.
Another potential application of IoMT lies in drug management. With the introduction of ‘smart pills’ that contain microscopic sensors, data can be transmitted to connected devices, once these are swallowed.
Proteus Discover, a digital medicine company, is employing smart pill capabilities to measure medication treatment effectiveness to improve clinical results. Another company, CorTemp is using the pills to monitor a patient’s internal health. It wirelessly transmits data which can be critical in life or death situations. Smart pills are one such incredible example of how IoMT can help decentralise hospital-based care.
Prevention Rather Than Cure
If we consider the potential of smart wearable devices, there is a huge opportunity to cut costs and encourage ‘prevention-over-cure-based healthcare concept.’ Research shows that if only 5% of high-risk patients are constantly monitored via wearables, it could result in €4.3 million savings per 30,000 admissions.
For instance, In Europe, in April 2017, four in ten patients admitted to accident and emergency units were not being examined promptly enough. The previous year witnessed 15,722 deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge. The reason behind this was staff shortage and inadequate monitoring.
Fortunately, wearable technology is being explored to address the problem. For example, the EU H2020-funded Nightingale programme is prompting the healthcare industry to improve patient safety. It is doing it by developing systems that can accurately identify high-risk patients.
Another UK-based startup, Sentinel Biosensors Ltd is challenging large corporates with its wearable devices trials that monitor patients every 120 seconds. It uses AI to analyse vital signs and advise healthcare providers on diagnosis and management.
Case Study On Rural Patient Monitoring
For St. Luke’s Health System, a non-profit in care organisation in Kansas City, US, rural patients are a high priority. The non-profit treats patients residing anywhere in the Gem State and eastern Oregon.
Previously, though, it lacked an efficient way to provide consistent care to the residents. For example, a few times a month, a physiologist from the organisation would drive two hours to meet patients in one of their rural clinics. It would take an entire day and then driving back home.
However, recently, the same doctor replaced the physical visits with telemedicine. With this, he was able to add an extra 30 appointments to his monthly schedule. As per Krista Stadler, senior director of telehealth services at St. Luke’s, rural communities struggle to recruit and retain healthcare specialists. Now, the non-profit is providing 24×7 care to patients at clinics, hospitals and homes – even if they are a hundred miles away. The specialists use monitors, webcams, electronic health records, headsets and stand-alone virtual video infrastructure to deliver healthcare to patients in remote or rural areas.
Clinicians in virtual care centre make use of 49-inches Samsung monitors and log into the telehealth software platform. They select the room as per their schedule and the camera in the patient’s room turns on. The physician appears on the screen.
Using the software, the specialist is able to move in all directions and zoom in to see minute details including wounds, pupils, rashes etc. When required, a trained nurse is appointed to serve as a telepresenter in the patient’s room for further assistance. This way, St. Luke’s system is successfully able to reach patients remotely – providing them with all-around healthcare services.
Today, smart city leaders are increasingly focusing on improving quality of life, environment and sanitation vital for citizen health. In doing this, a shift from cure to prevention can be fundamental. The Internet of Medical Things will be at the heart of this healthcare concept. It is a call for urban leaders to engage with this emerging technology in order to tackle the global healthcare crisis.