The Internet of Medical Things
By now the Internet, and by extension the Internet of Things (IoT), is not an uncommon part of our daily lives. Everyday items such as TVs, security systems and fitness accessories or wearables are being connected to the Internet in ways previously unimaginable. However, increasingly the possibilities of the IoT extends beyond mere convenience and could become vital to our health.
Unlike our households, phones and businesses, the healthcare industry has been weary of embracing some aspects of the Internet and connectivity into practice. But the emergence of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) shows that this could be changing. It involves a connection of medical and other healthcare devices to the Internet, increasing the capacity for storing and analysing of personal and public data as well as more direct and rapid responses to medical conditions or emergencies. In a way, it’s goal is to “rehumanize the doctor-patient relationship”.
Of course then, the success of this move requires a buy-in by or a culture change in the healthcare industry towards modern end-to-end medical solutions. The potential changes brought by a smoothly running IoMT would mean a significantly cheaper healthcare industry for both patients and professionals, which at present is an expensive and profiting industry. It is estimated that the most savings could be in chronic disease management. Furthermore, it would mean better and more responsive healthcare. Patients’ vitals such as temperature, heart rates and glucose levels can be remotely monitored, meaning less time spent at the doctor and more immediate response times when something goes awry. Moreover, data on the changes to these vitals can be stored in a way for doctors to review, providing a clearer picture of a person’s condition.
The IoMT is not without its hurdles though. Healthcare is a highly regulated industry and standardizing the IoMT or making it standard-compliant, while necessary, can slow down the adoption of many advances in this regard. There are many security issues surrounding the devices and the data they collect, which make room for more cyber attacks and security breaches, certainly concerning when dealing with a person’s health.
Nevertheless, it appears that the IoMT can play a large role in bringing medicine into the modern era while also improving the doctor-patient relationship.
Some notable examples in the IoMT include:
- Propeller Health, which has released an FDA-approved asthma inhaler with a GPS-sensor. This allows for tracking of the time and location of the use of the inhaler, allowing a user to even avoid those areas which may prompt their asthma attacks.
- Contact lenses for diabetics produced by Novartis and Google, that allows a patient to measure the level of blood sugar through tears and transferred to a smart device.
- Monitoring of medication through Vitality, a medication container system that can notify a patient to take their prescribed medication through smartphone notifications or even a phone call.
By Jason de Klerk