What is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)?

What is the internet of medical things IOMT

Benefits, effects, and trends in the world of interconnected devices and medicine

The internet of things popularly known as IoT has taken the world by storm. Since its initialization, IoT has been able to successfully influence our way of life both at home and at work. Nowadays the internet of things not only enables us to connect with other people worldwide but also influence our reasoning and decision making. Research indicates that IoT has now been successfully incorporated into many different sectors of the economy including the health care where it is commonly referred to as the internet of medical things (IoMT).

The internet of medical things (IoMT) is a series of devices that are connected together to form a smart network. In the medical field this could include smart body sensors, connected surgical tools and scopes, or networked communications between patient and doctor. These devices can then relay information directly to a medical professional, allowing for analysis and monitoring of critical conditions.

For a refresher on internet of things technology, check out our article What is IoT?

The incorporation of new technology in the world of medicine has streamlined different hospital activities and connected the healthcare system to a much larger network.

By 2020, 40% of IOT related technology will be health related, more than any other category. Making up a $117 billion market. -D.V. Dimitrov
IoMT will make up the largest portion of the IoT in coming years

The IoMT evolution started in the USA after the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was formulated in 2009.  The main function of this act was to initialize the adoption of electronic health records and the use of technology. This saw the creation of health portals where patients could actively interact in the platform and access their medical records, set appointments and gain easy access to their doctors.

These are all activities that were not possible before the IoMT. Ever since the internet of medical things has been evolving gradually and it is slowly reshaping the healthcare industry.

It is projected that IoMT will impact the health sector significantly in the coming few years. This is because IoMT will be incorporated in all health care smart devices in an attempt to maximize the efficiency of different medical processes. This means that doctors and other medical staff will have an easier time taking care of patients and managing vital hospital data. The research will be easily done conveniently, and this will lead to the invention of vaccines and cures that would otherwise be impossible.

Creating an ecosystem

Since its initialization, IoMT has been able to easily transform the data collected into valuable knowledge. With its help, different parties in the health sector such as the medical staff, patients, hospitals and vendors have been able to more easily share valuable patient information. It is like the internet of medical things has created a certain health care ecosystem thanks to smart devices and widespread Wi-Fi coverage. This has, in turn, enabled these parties to:

Better the patient’s wellbeing

The IoMT has introduced the use of smart devices that initiate a close connection between the patient and the medical staff. Through the network, information about the patient can easily be relayed to a unified system for better analysis. This, in turn, saves the patient both money and energy that would have been spent walking around to different medical facilities just to get the analysis done. This has been known to help improve the patient’s wellbeing by giving him or her peace of mind. This alone is enough to enhance the patient’s overall experience with healthcare, which can have extremely positive effects..

Monitor the shelf life of different medical products

Accurate record keeping of shelf life in the world of pharmaceuticals is essential. Through smart sensors and monitoring networks, producers of commonly stocked pharmaceuticals have been able to precisely track their shelf life. This allows the manufacturers to tweak the balance of shelf life and potency, in order to deliver the most desirable combination of the two. In maintaining completely accurate shelf-life records, pharmaceutical companies can keep costs low, and ensure that their best product is delivered to the customer. Sharing data between pharmacies, prescribing doctors, and manufacturers is one way in which the internet of things has improved this specific area of industry.

Reduce medical cost significantly

Have you ever stopped and wondered how much it would cost going for regular medical check-ups, hospital readmissions and other unnecessary visits to the doctor? The sum could be quite huge, and the avoidable trips will do nothing but drain your pockets. Luckily IoMT can eradicate all of those costs thanks to the connected devices which enabling interaction between the doctor and the patients. Medical staff can now monitor a patient’s health in real time. This can minimize the time and money that would have been wasted on those numerous visits you would have otherwise made. You can now see the doctor when it is absolutely necessary, and this can be only when physical interaction is required.

These wearable devices and mobile apps have been integrated with telemedicine and telehealth efficiently, to structure the medical internet of things - Haghi Et Al. Korean Society of Medical Informatics
The Korean Society of Medical Informatics announces the successful integration of the internet of medical things (IoMT)

Devices that have been brought about by IoMT.

While enabling the easy relay of medical data among different parties involved in the health care sector, IoMT has also enabled the creation of certain technological devices that have made great changes in the industry. These smart devices have made a number of medical functionalities possible and have empowered medical facilities with unlimited capabilities to perform different hi-tech functions. It is speculated that continued innovation will automate hospitals and increase doctors’ efficiency exponentially in the near future. Some of the smart devices that are now being used in medical facilities courtesy of IoMT include:

External wearable smart devices.

Recently, we have been introduced to a number of external wearables in the form of watches. Forget about how classy they look and let’s focus on what they can do. These wearables have been able to keep patients in a loop about their health conditions. They use remote or wireless communication to relay accurate data about the patient. They are able to monitor heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels, continuous glucose and electrocardiography also known as EKG.

Showing the different categories and capabilities of IoMT devices
Showing the different categories and capabilities of IoMT devices

What can consumer wearables do?

  • Heart rate can be measured with an oximeter built into a ring
  • Muscle activity with an electromyographic sensor embedded into clothing
  • Stress with an electrodermal sensor incorporated into a wristband
  • Physical activity or sleep patterns via an accelerometer in a watch
  • Levels of mental attention can be monitored with a small number of non-gelled electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes
  • Levels of social interaction (also known to affect general well-being) can be monitored using proximity detection to others with Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled devices
  • Consumer wearables can deliver personalized, immediate, and goal-oriented feedback based on specific tracking data obtained via sensors and provide long lasting functionality without requiring continual recharging.
  • Their small form factor makes them easier to wear continuously. While smartphones are still required to process the incoming data for most consumer wearables, it is conceivable that in the near future all processing functionality will be self contained.

Implanted medical devices

There is no doubt about what IoMT devices can do. There are those that have been designed with specific abilities to help patients support an injured biological structure, replace a biological structure that is missing in the patient’s body as well as enhance a biological structure that already exists but is weak due to different reasons. This is where you find drug delivery devices and implantable infusion pumps. Other such incredible implanted smart devices include the implantable neurostimulator system. These devices can perform real time monitoring and delivery of stimuli better than any human. These services provide excellent quality of life improvements for the wearer.

Stationary medical devices

These are some of the major devices that help medical staff in performing some of the most complicated functions. They include surgical devices, the X-rays and the MRIs. These devices are used to perform various medical applications such as connected imaging, operations, lab tests as well as management of the patient’s medicine. Stationary medical devices have revolutionized the health care sector and have given the doctors an upper hand when it comes to treating life-threatening conditions.

There is no telling what would have happened without these devices because they have already been embedded in the core of medical practice. Every time a patient has a bone fracture they usually go for the X-ray to check on the situation. This information can now be shared instantly across a series of interconnected devices, and be made available for diagnosis by medical professionals at every step of the way.

Telemedicine is a long standing practice in the medical community. The availability of data has increased the effectiveness of this field, and the interconnected world has made telemedicine an ease. The number of connected devices is increasing exponentially, and the more the network expands the more data is generated, and treatment becomes patient-centric. The connection of these devices that make telemedicine or telehealth a success are established by either Bluetooth low energy, Satellite, cellular, ZigBee, NFC or Wi-Fi networks. These are same networks that all IoMT devices use.

Global healthcare spending is expected to grow from $7.1 trillion in 2015 to $8.7 trillion by 2020. The percentage of people aged 65 and over is expected to double by 2050. Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions
Deloitte predicts that healthcare spending as well as the industry itself will increase considerably in the coming years.

Record keeping made easy

Sometimes a certain ailment requires the doctor to know if the patient has been on any kind of medication or they have ever suffered a certain disease. Missing even a small piece of information may be dangerous to the patient. At times this may be very hard for the patient to express due to forgetfulness or inability to communicate. Things like allergies, previous surgeries, and the presence of implanted medical devices can have major impacts on diagnosis and treatment plans. The availability of this patient information in an instant makes the medical process much faster and safer.

Since the integration of Internet of things into medicine. Doctors have been able to maintain patient’s data and valuable records without any problem. If a doctor has some questions regarding the medical past of the patient, they can simply access it from the database. This will provide them with everything required to initiate a valid treatment or medical procedure that will not inadvertently harm the patient in the long run. It also provides certainty which is usually a relief for both parties.

IoMT has bettered patients’ experience.

There are quite a number of procedures that would have been either impossible or extremely painful without the IoMT. These procedures usually worsen the patient’s experience and imprint a dark image in his/her mind about the hospitals and medical staff. This has however taken a complete turn. Doctors can now perform these procedures with ease and accuracy without inflicting too much pain to the patient. Such conveniences have improved doctor-patient relationship, and they have also enhanced the patients’ experience. The idea of reducing the number of visits made to the doctor has also improved patient experience. There is constant monitoring of patients by the doctor, accuracy in the treatment provided and quick recovery for the patients. Internet of Medical things has made patients fully aware that they can trust the doctors to restore their health without making any mistakes and using any guesswork. All these factors combined can enhance the patient’s experience significantly.

A large-scale study shows patients in an intensive care unit equipped with telehealth services were discharged from the ICU 20 percent more quickly and saw a 26 percent lower mortality rate than patients in a regular ICU - Becker's Health IT & CIO Report
Becker’s reported statistics show definitive effects of IoMT on patient’s health and wellbeing

It is no doubt that the IoMT has completely re-shaped the world of medicine and has taken it to a much better place than it was previously. The connection of smart devices has created a technological hub through which people in the medical world can interact and share valid data. This data is in turn used to make informed decisions that are transforming the medical world significantly. IoMT has also brought about medical devices that have changes to every different aspect of medicine. This is why it is now impossible to think of medicine without IoMT. With such remarkable benefits and the incredible advancements being made, IoMT is expected to expand and take the medicine world into a whole new dimension in the new future.

References on IoMT

Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report.10 Biggest Technological Advancements for Healthcare in the Last Decade.https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/10-biggest-technological-advancements-for-healthcare-in-the-last-decade.html

D.V. Dimitrov. Medical Internet of Things and Big Data in Healthcare.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4981575/

Demonstrating IoMT Devices figure courtesy of: Piwek L, Ellis DA, Andrews S, Joinson A (2016)
The Rise of Consumer Health Wearables: Promises and Barriers. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001953

AT&T Business Editorial Team. How IoT is becoming IoMT (Internet of Medical Things)https://www.business.att.com/learn/research-reports/how-iot-is-becoming-iomt–internet-of-medical-things-.html

Techtarget IOT Agenda. IoMT (Internet of Medical Things ) or healthcare IoT.

Bradistheinternet. Get Ready for IoMT: the Internet of Medical Things.

Orsini, M. Pacchioni, M. Malagoli, A. Guaraldi, G. My smart age with HIV: An innovative mobile and IoMT framework for patient’s empowerment.

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