by Emily Newton

The IoT has potential in virtually every industry, leading to the emergence of several subcategories. One of the fastest-growing and most promising of these niches is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). This area, which covers the increasing network of connected medical devices, is already changing how the healthcare industry operates.

The medical sector is no stranger to cutting-edge technology. Doctors, nurses and researchers rely on it to save lives, reduce costs and expand accessibility. Bringing IoT connectivity to their vast arsenal of tech pushes these benefits further and could revolutionize healthcare as a whole.

IoMT Subsegments

The Internet of Medical Things is a broad category. While the IoMT is itself a subcategory of the IoT, it contains multiple of its own subsegments. There are many ways to classify these groups, but one of the most popular approaches is to divide them into four categories:

  • On-body
  • In-home
  • In-hospital
  • Community

On-body devices are perhaps the most recognizable health IoT applications. These are wearables, like activity trackers and even smartwatches, since many can track heart rate and other vital signals. This category also includes more advanced, clinical-grade devices like connected glucose sensors.

The in-home segment refers to IoT devices that extend medical care into people’s homes. Emergency response systems like Life Alert are a familiar example. More recently, this area has come to include telehealth services that enable virtual hospital visits or remote patient monitoring.

As the name suggests, in-hospital devices are those that hospitals use in their facilities. These can be as mundane as location trackers or as advanced as connected automated defibrillators.

The community segment is a newer but growing subcategory. It covers connected medical devices in public areas, like health kiosks or sensor networks that aid emergency mobility. As the smart city movement grows, these services are becoming more common.

Benefits of the IoMT

One of the leading benefits of the IoMT is that it increases patient access to healthcare. Cardiogram apps in smartwatches can detect abnormal heart rhythms with nearly 97% accuracy, letting people know they may need medical attention without a hospital visit. Similarly, telehealth services let patients consult doctors without the cost and time of sitting in a waiting room.

With remote patient monitoring, medical professionals can keep tabs on patients with chronic conditions without frequent visits or lengthy stays. Since 86% of healthcare expenses come from these conditions, these devices can drastically reduce medical costs.

Ongoing data collection from health wearables can help personalize care or provide more research information. Some devices, like smart pills, can track patients’ internal bodily processes and enable real-time alerts when they should take medication or see a professional.

The IoMT can also make healthcare a more agile, flexible industry. IoT-based patient and inventory management systems help keep track of all hospital assets and personnel, enabling faster responses, higher security and streamlined ordering.

Potential Challenges

For all of its benefits, the Internet of Medical Things also comes with a few challenges. One of the most considerable obstacles to these devices is their cost. While many of them decrease expenses over time, their reliance on cutting-edge sensors and other advanced technology typically means higher upfront costs.

There’s also the issue of durability. The combination of sensitive, high-tech systems and potentially extreme environments makes designing durable medical IoT devices challenging. Plastic casings can offer protection but don’t enable compact or lightweight designs that some IoMT devices need. Streamlined, lightweight protective measures may be expensive.

Data protection is crucial in any industry, but especially in healthcare, where organizations deal with sensitive data and HIPAA regulations. Hospitals need to ensure all information transmitted between IoT devices is 100% secure, but IoT cybersecurity is a notorious weak point. Implementing these technologies can put patient data at risk or require complicated cybersecurity countermeasures.

IoMT Adoption Trends

Despite these challenges, IoMT adoption continues to rise mostly uninhibited. The healthcare IoT market was worth $57.62 billion in 2019, and experts estimate that it will pass $352 billion by 2027. Much of this substantial growth comes from the industry’s increasing realization of its shortcomings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As hospitals grew increasingly crowded and busy, traditional structures quickly became insufficient. By embracing IoT functions like remote patient monitoring, healthcare organizations expanded who they could help and became more efficient. As more industry leaders realized these benefits, IoMT adoption expanded.

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring represent the fastest-growing segments, as they address the industry’s current needs directly. Consumers are starting to prefer healthcare systems that utilize these services, too, spurring further adoption. Before long, remote patient care could become a standard practice across the medical industry.

The IoMT Is One of the Most Promising IoT Segments

The IoT as a whole has seen skyrocketing adoption and expansion in recent years. Given the global health crisis, it’s unsurprising that the Internet of Medical Things has seen even faster growth than most segments.

Healthcare has struggled with issues of accessibility, flexibility and cost for years. The IoMT helps address these long-standing challenges, and that’s an opportunity the industry can’t miss. As such, medical IoT devices could revolutionize the industry in the next few years.

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