Medical IoT - The Prognosis is Good
The medical Internet of Things (MIoT) is one of many verticals gaining traction within IoT. By adding interconnectivity to medical devices and wearables, MIoT products will significantly impact the way the healthcare industry provides care to patients.
And medical devices and patient monitoring with advanced data analytics will mitigate risks in medical and healthcare facilities. This will translate into cost savings for hospitals and faster, better-informed care for patients.
From IoT to MIoT
As is the case in most IoT verticals, many MIoT technologies are not entirely new but, rather, evolutions of existing machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies.
Interconnectivity brings new capabilities to common medical tools, such as those used to address chronic disease management or devices used to monitor assets (including patients).
IoT encompasses a wide range of technologies that includes devices, edge computing, operating systems, cloud and middleware that must interact to create IoT products and services.
In MIoT, these various components address the needs of the consumer health and medical industries through digital transformation and the integration of IoT products.
Consumer healthcare involves personal fitness devices, vitals-monitoring medical devices and platforms that allow patients to increase personal monitoring in order to reduce the number of doctor visits.
These devices also allow doctors to consult with patients whose medical information is easily accessible digitally.
Wearable devices and personal fitness monitors are now widespread among consumers. These devices are a point of connectivity for different sectors within MIoT, such as personal health monitoring, preventative medicine and chronic disease management.
According to a recent 451 Research report, heart rate monitoring remains the top health-related feature that buyers look for in a fitness monitor (51%), followed by pedometer/step tracking (35%) and blood pressure monitoring (30%).
Telemedicine providers use MIoT technologies across numerous IoT segments, offering connectivity and interoperability between middleware and applications, wearables, gateways and the cloud.
Telemedicine platforms provide interoperability for these devices and applications, allowing patients and doctors to aggregate data and compile real-time medical records.
Patients also have the ability to control their personal monitoring devices. This level of patient monitoring allows healthcare providers to offer enhanced treatment instantaneously, improving the efficiency of care in and outside of healthcare infrastructure such as hospitals and private medical practices.
Healthcare providers having access to aggregated data on vital measurements such as heart rate and blood pressure also benefit patients in need of a simple diagnosis, which they can now receive without seeing a doctor in person or incurring expenses on tests to gather the same data generated from MIoT devices.
MIoT technologies also allow patients to continuously monitor chronic illnesses, as well as prevent costly incidents that could be easily avoided with daily use of MIoT devices.
Consumer devices such as fitness-tracking wearables (e.g., Fitbit) will have a greater medical purpose in the future. They can measure important vital signs such as heart rate, which will be available in real time on telemedicine platforms.
Many commonplace IoT technologies have been integrated into the healthcare system, often with the hospital as the entry point.
Services such as patient monitoring make use of active RFID systems deployed in conjunction with location-specific monitors and network access points to provide real-time patient tracking and monitoring throughout the building.
Potential use cases of this include family members tracking a patient's location or monitoring patient status, and hospitals tracking the location of equipment and providing analytics from collected monitoring data.
In addition, implementing MIoT technologies provides the medical industry with ways to improve regulatory compliance and increase loss prevention.
Opportunities and Challenges
MIoT provides both consumers and healthcare providers with significant opportunities: Cost savings, an improved user experience, and data collection and analytics can all be achieved through effective use of MIoT devices.
Interoperability between devices enables better medical insight. For example, wearables interacting with middleware and applications can be critical to telemedicine.
There are also a multitude of product- or situation-specific opportunities: smart ICUs, connected operating rooms and emergency room management are a few examples that can benefit from MIoT integration.
However, major challenges still exist within the medical industry:
Regulatory compliance is an ongoing problem because it can limit innovation and time to market.
Lack of device interoperability can also slow adoption of MIoT as the number and types of devices continue to grow.
MIoT devices need to scale easily to meet the needs of large hospitals.
Security is one of the most pressing challenges facing the IoT market, and MIoT is no exception.
A recent 451 Alliance study on IoT showed that 63% of organizations believe their greatest IoT-related security concerns are unsecured endpoints.
Unfortunately, poor security is common among IoT devices because they were previously not viewed as potential attack targets for hackers or were rushed to market with out-of-date firmware.
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Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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