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Internet of Medical Things (IoMT): Applications and Challenges

MedTech innovations are changing the way healthcare is administered around the globe. Today, even chronic and extremely critical diseases like diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, etc., can be monitored and treated remotely. Technological exuberance in the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, telemedicine, etc., has brought down the high healthcare costs. With increased consumer awareness and easy availability of 4G and 5G connectivity, more and more patients are using IoT-enabled healthcare devices to monitor body vitals such as temperature, oxygen levels, cholesterol, etc. This stream of an internet-connected network of health systems, medical devices, along with healthcare software applications is referred to as the Internet of medical things (IoMT) or healthcare IoT.

The ecosystem of the Internet of medical things includes inter-connected services such as remote patient monitoring, smart diagnostic tools, vital signs monitoring, e-prescriptions, telemedicine, genomic data analysis, and many more. IoMT leads the transition from reactive healthcare models to proactive and digital care models that benefit both patient and the provider. This article details the importance, applications, and challenges associated with the Internet of medical things (IoMT).

How Does IoMT Work?

Internet of medical things works in three ways:

Data collection: Smart IoMT-enabled medical devices collect critical patient health data

Data transmission: Network-connected IoMT devices send the collected data to other computing devices that can be accessed by medical practitioners via the Internet.

Data processing: Integrated software applications such as Hospital management systems, Telemedicine software, etc., can store, organize, manage and analyze the received data to create meaningful insights and analytics to help doctors better understand the patient’s condition.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market is estimated to be worth $158.1 billion in 2022.

Major Applications of IoMT:

Monitoring of critical devices:

IoMT connected clinical-grade devices such as cardiac devices, pacemakers, defibrillators can be remotely monitored. The devices can send real-time alerts to doctors in case of any fluctuations in normal readings. This decreases the response time in critical situations. IoMT-enabled neuromodulation devices can relieve chronic pain in patients.

Mario Raviglione, WHO’s Global TB Programme Director stressed the potential of various innovations that could “leapfrog” efforts forward to end TB – including precision medicine, big data, Internet of Things, etc.

Consumer Health Wearables

Consumer-grade health wearables such as smartwatches with fitness activity trackers, smart belts, and other smart garments with internet connectivity are proving highly effective in predicting ailments. These devices share real-time health data with physicians who are able to remotely monitor vitals such as heart rate, sleep schedule, pulse rate, oxygen saturation, etc. The data insights received from devices enable better decision-making.

Telemedicine

IoMT is critical for telehealth virtual visits. In Virtual caregiving units, Doctors can remotely assess patient conditions by integrated IoMT applications. It assists doctors in administering life-saving emergency care without visiting the patient’s home. Another major application is for expert consultation during ongoing treatments.

Remote Support to Medical Camps

Medical camps deploy point-of-care devices, kiosks, mobility services, etc., at distant locations. IoMT allows the medical camp doctors to seek advice via video consultant and share data with their hospital in real-time from remote locations.

Medical Studies and Research

With IoMT, medical research centers can collect, compile and analyze patient data received from millions of connected devices. Researchers can rely on accurate patient data stored in the IoMT network. IoMT devices coupled with augmented reality are boosting medical training.

Health Insurance

Insurance companies are providing discounts in premium to consumers who wear fitness trackers and complete the assigned fitness activity (for instance, a discount of 5% in premium if the insured completes a walk of 2000 steps per day). IoMT data is also beneficial for easy claim settlement.

Smart Pills

Smart pills are ingestible sensors that track drug activity, stomach acid levels, etc., and provide health data (which is difficult to obtain otherwise) from within the body. Smart pills are highly useful IoMT devices in gastrointestinal procedures, diagnostic imaging, endoscopy, and pH monitoring. Smart pills are used for targeted delivery of medication inside the body to reduce overdose and enhance effectiveness. Unlike traditional oral drugs that get dissolved as soon as it enters the body, the smart pill gets activated after reaching the intended body part.

Challenges of IoMT Implementation

Patient Data Safety:

Ensuring the safety of sensitive patient data from cyberattacks is the foremost challenge hovering over IoMT. Treatment details, location information, etc., can be misused if stolen by the fraudsters.

Connectivity Issues:

IoMT devices with extremely complicated biosensors work only when the internet connection is stable, and most IoMT devices need 4G or 5G connectivity. Ensuing internet connectivity, especially in distant locations, is a bit of a challenge.

Regulatory Issues:

IoMT applications and medical devices have to pass through stringent regulatory processes. Also, the regulations vary from country to country. Frequently changing regulations impact import/export and smooth implementations of IoMT adversely.

Initial Investment

IoMT reduces healthcare costs after proper implementation. However, the initial investment is significantly high. Biosensors, IoMT devices, applications, etc., are costly and hampers many medical providers to implement them in the first place. Also, motivating patients to invest the consumer-grade IoMT devices is a challenge.

Interoperability

One vendor’s IoMT device should work smoothly with another vendor’s medical infrastructure. They should also comply with multiple national and international medical laws and standards. However, it is not the case as of the present. Without interoperable devices and applications, implementation is not possible.

Healthcare organizations around the world are developing new operating models, raising funds, and are lobbying with governments and regulatory bodies to mitigate the above challenges. Once the challenges are handled efficiently, IoMT can provide healthcare providers more accuracy, productivity, and reliability in delivering patient care.

Wrapping Up:

The advancements in Medtech, rising costs of healthcare, care coordination challenges due to the pandemic, and rise of 4G/5G, supported the rise of IoMT. The Internet of medical things has brought a paradigm shift in medical capabilities. From improving healthcare outcomes to providing personalized services to patients, IoMT is a convenient and innovative technology that is transforming the healthcare system. In integration with hospital management systems and telemedicine software tools, IoMT can be banked upon to deliver the next-level healthcare services at affordable costs.

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