The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has the ability to unlock huge potential for the healthcare sector in terms of costs, treatment and the allocation of human resources. However, harnessing that potential will be impossible without "smart” data management.
The triumph of the Internet of Things (IoT) has also had a positive effect on medicine. In this case specifically labeled the “Internet of Medical Things” (IoMT), it is expected to significantly contribute to overcoming the challenges faced by healthcare systems. And those challenges are no mean feat: It is estimated that by 2050, over 20 million people in Germany will belong to generation 65 plus, and the country has an increasing life expectancy. The consequences will be soaring healthcare costs and a spiraling shortage of healthcare professionals. After all, an aging population goes hand in hand with a dramatic increase in chronic disease that will require constant medical supervision.
Typical IoMT applications, such as the remote monitoring of people’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, breathing rate and intake of medication not only help to significantly reduce costs but also improve the quality of patient care. Modern sensors are now able to monitor almost every bodily function 24 hours a day. And when connected online, they provide invaluable health data which unlock brand new ways of making diagnoses using AI and algorithm-based analysis functions.
The IoMT is, however, also saving lives. As such, up to 80% of all strokes could be avoided if the major risk factors, i.e. arterial stiffness, atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure, were continuously monitored. Approximately 200,000 men and women in Germany are affected every year.
However, the remote monitoring of biosignals and other indicators not only reduces medical risks but also minimizes the likelihood of the need for expensive hospitalizations. A study produced by the consulting firm McKinsey in cooperation with the BMC (German Managed Care Association) estimates that in 2018 already, the full digitization of the German healthcare system would have potentially saved up to EUR 34 billion in healthcare costs.
The word “remote” has also been receiving an unexpected injection of importance on account of the coronavirus pandemic. Every waiting area of every doctor’s office has the potential to spread the disease. It would therefore be advisable for at-risk patients in particular to be monitored remotely, for example in the case of routine check-ups. And those who have had their doctor or clinic appointments canceled because the risk of infection is greater than the risk involved in not being treated will also benefit from IoMT applications.
The products and business models used in the medical industry are undergoing a fundamental transformation on account of the IoMT. This is because it primarily provides data which, when properly processed, form the basis for new or optimized services. For Deloitte, the Internet of Medical Things is even changing the healthcare model from one where providers are compensated based on their output to one which is focused on the users (value-based care model).
A recent study by Fortune Business Insights projects that the global IoMT market size will reach USD 142.45 billion by 2026, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.9% during the forecast period. According to analysts, technical progress coupled with a simultaneous increase in product launches is expected to underpin that positive development.
The European Union’s recently updated Medical Device Regulation (MDR) may also turn out to be an additional driver for IoMT solutions. It requires stricter controls for device monitoring. The MDR sets out the need for all medical devices to have a Unique Device Identifier (UDI), which must be entered in the Eudamed database. The aim is to ensure the global traceability of medical devices all the way back to their place of origin. Manufacturers must also prove that their devices are safe for patient care and record this in a central database. This does not necessarily require specific technical applications such as the IoMT, but the implementation of the regulation should considerably speed things up and make things significantly easier.
The IoMT will resolve a significant number of cost and access-related issues in the healthcare sector. However, it is vital that the data from connected medical devices be used to generate useful findings for diagnoses and treatments as well as competitive business models for the manufacturers. And even though the German Medical Devices Act stipulates particularly stringent safety requirements and particularly high quality standards, IoT devices are by their very nature a major target for hackers and criminal organizations. As such, the risks and dangers faced in the healthcare sector are immense given the safety-critical applications and sensitive data involved.