The Internet of Medical Things, IoMT

The Internet of Medical Things, IoMT

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a term that encompasses IoT applications in the healthcare and medical industry. It enhances the efficiency of diagnostics by allowing devices to track, monitor, and report essential health data of the patient and transfer it to doctors in real-time. It assists in the monitoring of physical health criteria like glucose level and blood pressure and is also capable of monitoring a patient’s cognitive state like depression and mood constraints.

The biggest catch of this tech is ingestible sensors. What once required shoving a long tube into a patient’s gut to observe a malfunction can now easily be achieved through these ingestible sensors. They come in sizes easily to swallow and are dissolved harmlessly in the human body. 

The true possibility of robotic surgeries is also a reality brought forth by this tech. Like this, IoMT has opened avenues for the healthcare industry in unprecedented ways.

IoMT vs IoT

Even though IoMT is a part of IoT, they are principally different. Usual IoT devices are built keeping in mind easy usability and convenience. On the other hand, IoMT devices are more focused on accuracy, reliability, and security.

Though IoT as a whole is a booming technology that has seen quicker adoption rates and growth prospects, IoMT applications are following a relatively slower curve. This is hugely due to the factor of data privacy and security that is indispensable to healthcare applications. 

However, as innovations in IoT are progressing, challenges like deploying necessary security are being tackled, leading to increased penetration of these applications in the medical industry.

Nevertheless, it is accurate to say that IoMT is still taking baby steps. Market research predicted that by 2022, IoT would grow to become a $520 billion industry which includes IoMT (which will reach $137 billion by 2021). 

Though this may lead to a belief that IoMT is falling behind, in reality, that is not the case. IoMT is holding its own in the market; to date, around 70% of healthcare organizations use IoMT in one way or the other and there is still room for growth. According to Goldman Sachs, IoMT will help the healthcare industry save USD 300 billion owing to its cost-effective and time-saving features. 

Scope of IoMT

IoMT applications are vast. They can be categorized under different headings for a better understanding of their utility.

At-Home IoMT

The first and most obvious application of IoMT is telemedicine. These applications make telemedicine possible. They enable patients to connect to their hospitals from the comfort of their homes.

For instance, a heart patient who is suddenly experiencing discomfort in his chest can immediately reach out to his cardiac specialist using IoMT and the doctor, using Remote Patient Monitoring (RPA) can assess the blood pressure and other critical information of the patient.

This will reduce the time and cost of both the patient and the doctor. It also efficiently reduces the cases of re-admissions as it enables hospitals to keep an eye on recently discharged patients.

Another amazing application of IoMT is Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). This is most advantageous for senior citizens who live by themselves. PERS can automatically send a call for help in case of emergencies like a fall or a heart attack.

In this way, IoMT not only appends to telehealth applications but also has its own array of utilities that can make healthcare from home much more feasible.

Wearable IoMT

Wearables are a huge rage these days. There are many advantages of wearable technology that have made them as powerful as they are.

Wearables are personal, convenient, and affordable. They not only provide important information regarding a person’s health but can also be used to form healthy habits. By constantly using wearables, it is possible to detect diseases before they become serious or untreatable; thereby achieving a fundamental concept of medicine i.e., prevention is better than cure.

According to HIMSS, more than 50% of healthcare providers accept that wearable tech is vital for healthcare and agree that it is an efficient way to communicate with the patient. Also, studies show that as technology keeps advancing, wearable tech will keep evolving.

In-hospital IoMT

A hospital is a busy place, something is always happening. Nurses tend to have more than one task at hand, all of which are equally important. Compromising any one of them would have fatal consequences on a patient. Monitoring the health of patients admitted to hospitals is one such task. This is especially important for pre-operation or post-operation patients.

By employing IoMT in hospitals, nurses and other professionals can easily track a patient’s health data from anywhere on the premises. If any abnormality is observed, they can render timely emergency service too.

Also, administrators can use IoMT devices like tracking systems and sensors to track the ongoing activities in a hospital and realize the quality of their personnel management and any peaks and valley in their demand and supply.

Outside a hospital setting

IoMT applications help in dispensing medical care outside of a hospital setting. During emergency situations, Emergency Response Intelligence Systems are used by paramedics or first responders to track patient metrics on-site.

In cases of remote areas with limited or no access to healthcare infrastructure, IoMT devices can be used to conduct diagnoses and prescribe medicines.

Apart from medicinal purposes, IoMT also serves another important function. It helps in transporting sensitive healthcare goods and medical equipment by enabling logistic teams to monitor pressure, temperature, and other information through sensors.

Like this, IoMT betters medical activities while also furthering the efficiency of the medical ecosystem as a whole.

Challenges

Undeniably there are a few issues concerning the use of this tech. Firstly, many hospitals and healthcare centers excluding big, well-off ones lack even some basic infrastructure necessities. With such daunting technical needs, it is impossible to apply IoMT as they require multiple devices, softwares, advanced protocols, and security standards. Older systems must be revitalized to be compatible with newer, more advanced ones. This in return raises the challenge of expertise in handling these systems.

Secondly, even if we were to somehow accommodate systems that can successfully deploy IoMT services, the issue of data privacy and security still stands. In a distributed environment where data is being transferred among multiple nodes, it undergoes constant replication, so, it is challenging to establish who the owner of the data is. This leads to serious security implications.

Finally, we would arrive at a conclusion that regulating this tech solves all these challenges, however, experts opine that, even with regulation, we cannot impede the damage it is likely to cause.

The more feasible solution is to employ a network security model suitable to the particular network employed in an organization. Different security models provide different access control and authentication protocols. Adopting the right model can help in harnessing the best of IoMT without having to give in to its pitfalls.

Nevertheless, IoMT is too good of a tech to stop in its tracks due to a few downsides. Also, the masses are trusting IoMT for its many benefits and consequently, organizations and healthcare providers are investing more and more in this tech.  This is undoubtedly a force that is shaping the healthcare industry for the better.

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