By now, most people are familiar with the internet of things. While these connected devices are certainly changing how we interact with the world, having a refrigerator that is connected to your video doorbell isn’t exactly life-changing. When it comes to the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), however, we are already seeing life-altering applications. The potential for growth is immense and will drastically change the way we think about healthcare.
Right now, the reality is that the healthcare industry has been slow adopt connected devices. A recent study by Frost & Sullivan found that only 60% of healthcare providers are utilizing IoMT devices, leaving a lot of room for growth and expansion. In fact, that same study found that there are roughly 4.5 billion IoMT devices that existed in 2015, but that number is expected to explode to between 20-30 billion devices by 2020.
Unlike the commercial, enterprise or industrial sectors, the healthcare sector needs to be extra careful when it comes to integrating the IoMT into everyday applications. HIPAA strictly regulates patient data safety, which is a challenge in and of itself. But more importantly, people’s lives are at stake with any new healthcare revolution.
What is an IoMT Device Anyway?
Odds are pretty high that you or a member of your family already uses one. Those fitness tracking bracelets are an example of an IoMT device. But they can go a lot farther than simply monitoring heart rate or how many steps a patient has walked. There are non-invasive devices that can track medication intake, blood glucose levels and even analyze food intake. Vital signs can be monitored and tracked 24/7 through a biometric stamp. The applications already exist, and when connected to a medical computer, can update a patient’s pertinent data in real time.
What’s even more impressive is that this data is 100% accurate. As important as trust is in the patient/doctor relationship, human nature dictates that might fudge a little about their diet or exercise. They might simply forget about missed dosages of their medication. An in-home nurse for an elderly patient can easily check up on everything using a connected medical grade tablet, which would allow them to formulate a more accurate treatment plan. Same for a doctor in a medical office, who can remotely track a patient’s progress on their medical computer and provide treatment updates through a web portal without the patient needing to come in for non-vital follow up visits.
How Can this Change Healthcare?
Imagine in a few years when there are over 20 billion IoMT devices in regular use. Now imagine the volumes of data that those devices will produce. It is obviously too much information for humans to compile and analyze. That said, medical computers can use machine learning and advanced analytics to compile and compare data. This information can be used for predictive diagnosis or to identify patients who are at risk for future medical issues based on current behaviors or environmental factors.
Blockchain technology can allow this data to be shared anonymously, protecting patient data and allowing for even great pools of information to create even more accurate predictive models. The potential applications are virtually limitless and should improve preventative medicine, as well as help develop better patient outcomes in the event of an illness or injury.
Safety Concerns Must Be Addressed
When you begin talking about billions of connected devices transferring data, cybercrime becomes a legitimate concern. That’s a main reason why the healthcare sector has been a little slower to adopt the technology of the IoMT. As data encryption and firewall protection becomes more robust in these devices, the main threat will no longer be in the data transfer itself, but where the data resides.
Medical computers in hospitals are already a major target for cyber criminals. Unattended medical carts and computers in patient rooms are prime targets for physical security threats from data thieves. Often the most underestimated of cyber-attack. Commercial grade computers rarely have built-in security features necessary to protect against a physical attack. Computers looking to adopt and IoMT program should invest in medical grade computers that have built-in RFID readers, biometric fingerprint scanners and smart card readers. Two-factor authentication can ensure that only authorized users can log into an unattended device, preventing cyber theft of valuable patient data.
We barely scratched the surface of what the IoMT can currently do and where this technological revolution leading the healthcare industry. Inventory tracking, medical devices doing self-health checkups and providing their own maintenance alerts, and even increasing the speed with which information on new treatments and procedures is shared are a few more every day applications.
At Cybernet, we manufacture a full line of medical grade computers and tablets that are engineered to take link legacy equipment to emerging technologies and help healthcare practitioners focus on what’s most important – the patient. For more information, you can contact us here.