The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Part 1 of 2
Many of us are familiar with the term “the internet of things” (IoT), but only some know that the road to IoT began back in 1982, when grad students from the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University connected a modified Coke vending machine to the internet. This technology turned the machine into a basic smart device because it was able to provide networked status reports to the students about inventory and temperature control.
Today, our definition of IoT refers to the infrastructure of connecting physical objects to the internet, creating a smart device that enables communication between other smart devices or people. Reports indicate that globally, there were 8.4 billion IoT devices in 2017, and it is estimated that there will be 30 billion devices by 2020. By 2020, the global market value of IoT is projected to reach $7.1 trillion.
As global IoT grows, so too does the internet of medical things (IoMT). This technology is being used by individuals to track their health, for example via a Fitbit, and is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. Hospital and clinical staff are using IoMT technology to communicate with patients about appointments, medication management, lab results, care plans, and more.
IoMT at Home: Personal Health Monitoring
Wearable technology has been around since 1500 when Peter Henlein, a locksmith and clockmaker from Nuremberg, Germany, invented small, portable watches worn as necklaces or attached to clothing. The Apple Watch is a modern example of wearable technology. This electronic smartwatch is also a cellphone, MP3 player, personal assistant (Siri), and monitors the wearer’s health by using various apps.
Health apps that work with the sensors embedded in smart devices to collect data about a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, step count, etc. have become hugely popular. In September 2015, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, released a report that found there are more than 165,000 health-related apps available worldwide. In the United States alone, ABI Research expects digital wearable medical device sales to top $55 billion in 2022.
Clinical Applications of IoMT: Enhancing the Patient Experience
Originally intended for users to keep track of personal metrics and fitness goals, health apps and smart devices are becoming useful, sometimes life-saving tools for healthcare staff. Thanks to improved algorithms, the accuracy of the measurements taken, along with the resulting data, have progressed to a much higher standard. It is not uncommon for some nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals to develop care plans that include the use of apps and smart devices.
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, consistently ranked as one of the top three hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report, has tested various methods of internet-enabled technology with selected patients for years. A pilot study was conducted by Partners HealthCare Connected Health, at the outpatient clinic of the MGH Heart Center's Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program (also managed by Partners HealthCare Connected Health), and published their findings in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s mHealth and uHealth journal (JMU).
The study used a monitoring program for patients who were experiencing heart failure. Patients were provided with a blood pressure cuff and weight scale to use at home, which were also connected to the internet. Patient’s vital data was streamed to their medical care team and patients could review the readings in real time, directly on their phones.
Authors of the study reported an improvement in patient satisfaction, citing that 95% of patient participants felt more connected to their care team and more confident carrying out their care plan.