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What the Internet

of Medical Things

(IoMT) means

for healthcare

Author: Shane Schick

While the Internet of Things (IoT) has unleashed benefits like energy efficiency, productivity and increased agility across a host of industries, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) promises something else: the ability to take a truly patient-centric approach to healthcare.

The underlying technologies supporting these kinds of solutions are similar to traditional IT, including a high-performing network that connects to sensors in everyday objects and machinery. The difference is in how the technology is transforming the experience for providers and patients alike, using medical devices and healthcare data.

At a glance: What is the Internet of Medical Things?

The IoMT functions much like the IoT, but is operated specifically with medical devices serving health needs. So instead of deploying sensors on an oil rig or building them into a smart speaker, for example, the IoMT could involve anything from an MRI machine to heart monitors implanted under the skin.

Connecting these devices to healthcare applications could enable doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to monitor symptoms and conditions from almost anywhere. With better and more timely data, healthcare workers could even develop more  efficient clinical workflows and reduce the risk of having a patient's condition worsen.

The expected growth of the U.S. telehealth market at a compound annual growth rate of 28% during the period of 2020-2026 demonstrates that there is a growing need for remote healthcare that extends far beyond a doctor's office or hospital.

Over time, the Internet of Medical Things could also facilitate advances in medical research based on the volume of data gathered by medical devices. It could also help cash-strapped healthcare organizations make better use of their existing resources, particularly the time and knowledge of their top experts.

Where the IoMT is having an impact today

Many of us are familiar with consumer wearable devices designed to promote wellness, like fitness trackers. While those tools have their benefits, the Internet of Medical Things tends to focus on devices that are regulated or connected to platforms certified, typically by ICSA Labs, for use by professional healthcare providers.

Some of the on-body segments of IoMT devices could include wearable headbands that use neurotransmitters to reduce chronic pain. Biosensors could monitor cardiac rhythms and feed into applications that study heart conditions. A "smart belt" could detect when a senior is likely to fall.

At home, meanwhile, sensors could help inform virtual consultations with healthcare professionals by conveying data about air quality or other elements that might affect a patient's condition.

Using the IoMT network to connect sensors and healthcare applications takes on another dimension entirely in community settings, where emergency response teams might be able to act more quickly based on real-time alerts. The same technology opens up greater potential to establish point-of-care services, such as medical camps. An IoT-based approach to logistics could ensure drugs and other medical supplies get to where they're needed without being compromised in any way.

What the future holds for operational technology in hospitals

Connecting IoMT smart devices within hospital settings will be the foundation for telemedicine services, but the solutions also change the dynamics of operational technology (OT).

Unlike IT, which focuses on the management of data, OT controls physical equipment, such as hospital machinery used by medical personnel. Much like in more traditional IoT environments, connecting OT to the internet could provide greater predictability around the lifespan of equipment and issue warnings before parts break down.

The increased visibility hospital staff gain from IoMT technology could also ease the introduction of robotic surgical aids, reduce wait times for patients, and track assets such as wheelchairs, pharmaceuticals and other supplies. Even the heating and air conditioning of wards and storage facilities could be controlled more easily.

Of course, the Internet of Medical Things is not without its challenges to overcome. The increased collection, management and storage of patient data across the network makes it more important than ever to have the strongest IT security controls in place.

The sheer range of connected devices and use cases in healthcare also means all the hardware and software involved must be highly interoperable. And of course, keeping devices updated will be vital for healthcare organizations to achieve any of the objectives they've set.

Success with the Internet of Medical Things will depend on taking an approach not unlike those aimed at improving customer experiences in other sectors. By keeping the patient experience at the heart of everything they do, healthcare providers stand the best chance of improving outcomes—and even saving lives.

Discover how you can begin benefiting from the IoMT and advanced healthcare technology.