Three Ways IoMT Spurs Medical Advances
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is pushing medical advances in every field. What first appeared to be a matter of convenience is quickly becoming an essential aspect of care, with important implications for health IT infrastructure. Here are three ways IoMT is changing health care forever.
1. New Devices Capture New Data
Nearly every device common to medicine is now being connected to the internet. From heart monitors in cardiac intensive-care units to insulin and IV pumps on the hospital floor, data flows to charts and databases as continuously as a patient’s heart pumps blood.
But machines in hospitals aren’t the only devices providing information that’s advancing medicine and improving care; medical devices outside health care facilities are helping the cause, too. An entire spectrum of devices — including implantables such as pacemakers, wearables like Fitbits and tabletop and bedside devices such as blood glucose meters — are delivering patient data.
There are already more devices on the way that can produce new data for analysis. Examples include contacts that read the wearer’s blood glucose levels and bedsheets that can read bacteria counts in sweat. As more data becomes available, researchers and doctors can glean more insights into their patients and the conditions they’re dealing with.
2. Life in the Death of Averages
A lot of medical decisions are an exercise in averages. From measuring a patient’s temperature to selecting the appropriate medicine for a given condition or symptom, medical practitioners typically resort (at least as a first step) to solutions that have worked for most patients on the majority of occasions.
On the one hand, this approach leads to increased accuracy. For example, the knowledge that an antibiotic treated only certain types of infections eventually allowed doctors to use that medicine more effectively, but a lot of trial and error took place in order to get there. Not to mention, treating every patient as a theoretical average has its limits. After all, each patient is an individual with unique differences that can affect a disease’s advance and a treatment’s effectiveness.
“For a long time, we thought that Tamoxifen was roughly 80 percent effective for breast cancer patients, but now we know much more: We know that it’s 100 percent effective in 70 percent to 80 percent of patients and ineffective in the rest,” O’Reilly Media states in a recent report.
IoMT replaces general averages with individual-based information. For example, you can compare a patient’s current condition against their own readings when healthy. And when their genetic markers are added to the equation, doctors can make even more targeted treatment decisions.
3. The Rise of Robotics
Disease detection and treatment aren’t the only things advancing under IoMT. Patients also stand to enjoy reduced costs through improved efficiency. Robots are already at work in hospitals, but they may soon become more widespread, and their scope of work will likely increase. In not too long, patients may have robotic tech in their homes, too, as the effort to improve care and reduce costs continues to push innovation.
Medical robots not only collect data but analyze it, too. It’s this ability that’s at the root of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Soon, robots may even be able to administer some treatments based on data derived from home medical devices.
These are exciting developments, but the need to handle large influxes of data from a variety of devices both within and outside the health care organization is taxing on networks, security protocols and IT hardware. Already, health care IT personnel are finding their technology infrastructures straining to keep up with the infant stage of IoMT. Cloud, hybrid and converged architectures are quickly becoming the preferred platforms for handling these high demands.
The strain on IT architecture will only continue to increase. The time to prepare for the deluge of data and devices is now.