Source: N2M Advisory
On the author’s first point of bridging the gap between the IoT community and the medical community, focusing on the largest healthcare organizations that serve the most number of patients, you will be hard-pressed to find any that don’t have some form of a Digital Health office, with leaders ranging from Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Medical Officer / Chief Medical Information Officer (CMO/CMIO). Their charters are to be abreast of the technological advances in the medical space ranging from Smart Devices, IoT, Healthcare Information Technology (HIT), and Data Management and applying them to care delivery protocols. . Today, there are quite a few healthcare startups being launched by experienced doctors who are very knowledgeable in the medical and technology ecosystem space as well as multiple pilots and publicly announced rollout plans. Similarly, the majority of US government agencies such as the FDA, FCC and FTC are augmenting their staff with cross-domain expertise. Numerous HIT consulting firms are managing the technical implementation, while incorporating the applicable policy and regulatory requirements.
On the regulatory side, the FDA has been making policy revisions over the past few years for communication, smartphones, and Mobile Medical Apps (MMAs) to reduce the regulatory burden; terming this as Smart Regulation.
Today’s IoT technologies typically provide the processing, communicating, sensing, gateway capabilities that enable data collection, security, and battery/power management for long-term operation. These IoT features need to be combined with compelling user experiences to create effective patient-consumer solutions. In a broader context, when applied to the medical field, the promise of IoT is to enable Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) solutions.
On the point of IoT devices generating a large amount of data, we need to clarify what is the data and which device is generating it. Typically in RPM today, there are two ways medical and IoT operate to collect the patient’s vital signs medical measurement reading: (1) an IoT gateway (example) device gets the reading from a patient’s medical device (e.g. blood pressure monitor, weight scale, blood glucose meter etc.), and (2) a medical device and the IoT gateway are a single device (example) that gets the reading. Afterwards the reading is communicated over a wired or wireless network to the doctor’s office/provider system/3rd party healthcare partner/other. The amount of data generated from a typical home-use medical device can vary from a few kilo-byte (KBs) to a few hundred KB’s per reading. Data growth is caused, not by the per measurement readings, but by the patient taking multiple readings over the span of a day and making it available, near real-time, to their doctor’s office. Imagine a patient going to their doctor once or twice a month to have their vital signs taken versus doing it themselves at home twice a day over a month. Of related importance, is the flow of digital measurement readings from the medical/fitness device/wearable sensor to the patient’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR), to aid in Clinical Decision Support (CDS). In the end, it could be a normal reading, or an anomaly or something else, but it has a place in the continuum of the patient’s health and longitudinal medical record especially if it has been triggered by a health event or condition. Connecting the “dots” of data is what IoT medical nodes do best, that can lead to actionable outcomes as a result of analytic systems that marshal and process the data. On the cloud side, this has become easier in recent years with more provider’s adopting EMR systems as well as CDS systems. We are starting to see the shift towards smart IoT edge-nodes, which don’t blindly collect the “dots” but, instead, process data based on rules, triggers, and algorithms and reduce the amount of that data sent to the cloud.
Lastly, the author calls out motivation as a problem intrinsically tied to human psychology. With the IoT lens in mind, it should be understood that it is the patient’s responsibility to manage their healthcare. IoT features, applications and systems attempt to influence healthcare and fitness discipline from reactive to proactive, incorporating them as part of daily routine. Patients with chronic disease conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and COPD, and who are committed to manage their health, do adhere to take their medications. This will become easier as the onset of multiple wearable sensor smart patches and garments that monitor and collect our vital signs become a part of our day-to-day lives.
Many companies are showing interest in making connected health care devices. Whether it’s a wearable sensor or smart patch which tracks your workout or a garment that monitors and collects a patient’s vital signs, IoT will bring improvements to healthcare. It is not a question of if it will take off, but when. Here is a sign of “Things” to come.
Also Read: Why Medical IoT Won’t Take Off