Connected Hospitals & the Internet of Medical Things

3.7 million medical devices are in use today, monitoring patients’ conditions and sending data to physicians in real time.

With a 97% WiFi adoption rate in hospitals, these devices are going from strength to strength, offering new insights and ways to capture and analyse big data.

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices can lead to more accurate diagnoses, personalised treatments, and patient-centric care than ever before, allowing physicians to tailor each aspect of patient experience to the specifics of the patient’s condition.

Recent studies have found that nearly 60% of healthcare organisations investing in IoMT devices report cost benefits, visibility and improved patient care.

The authors of the report suggested that IoMT is the answer to a lot of questions raised by healthcare’s digital transformation, as it supports “the transition from disjointed care to coordinated care and reactive to proactive care-delivery approaches”.

From wearable technology to in-hospital devices, medical data is more connected than ever before. We’ve rounded up a few of the ways in which the Internet of Medical Things is changing patient-physician relationships in trials and beyond.

Trial recruitment and retention

Instrumental to gathering accurate data from around the globe, wearables and connected devices are also changing the way researchers reach, recruit and retain patients.

Clinical trial organisers are able to recruit patients more accurately than ever, drawing from an enormous global pool of medical data to match a trial to the best qualified candidates.

Particularly useful in the case of orphan diseases, which affect only 200,000 patients a year, this data takes the onus off patients to find appropriate trials to participate in, and lets researchers directly target those who they think would best benefit.

Wearable technology also improves patient engagement and retention, allowing them to participate remotely and without intrusion. Whereas historically a clinical trial may have meant a significant hospital stay, now it is possible for patients to continue living their day-to-day lives, cutting down on trial costs and travel times, while also gaining a more accurate idea of patient progress via discrete and constant measurements.

Already 68% of hospitals simplify prescription renewals by letting patients make requests via mobile devices, while over 40% provide real-time care management services to diabetes patients at home. With regular advances being made in these areas, it won’t be long before home-based trials are a viable option across conditions.

All of this adds up to create more time for physicians to treat patients, rather than taking and analysing measurements of their health, or overseeing on-site processes. This means that the entire trial process can become more about the working relationship between patients and researchers, with real-time information about patients’ conditions allowing doctors to be on the ball with their responses.

Data collection

By automating measurements of patient conditions, the IoMT protects patients and improves drug efficacy by decreasing human error and ensuring accuracy. With growing concern over inaccurate and fraudulent reporting, this will give patients and researchers added confidence in trial findings.

62% of hospitals already add patient-reported data to the electronic health record to gain a bigger picture of individual patients’ conditions, and to contribute toward future diagnoses.

Whereas clinical trials once relied heavily on subjective and qualitative patient reports to devise treatments, medical wearables and devices offer entirely objective reports of patient health. This is less intrusive to the patient and more useful to the researcher.

That’s not to say that wearables render patients’ self-reporting redundant. By freeing patients from the onus to report accurately on the specifics of their condition, these readings allow them to speak more naturally about their own feelings, telling them there’s no such thing as a wrong answer, and improving relationships with researchers.

Connected Hospitals

While wearable technology has significant implications for home care, wireless technology has also changed the way we approach hospital visits.

With wireless technology, patients will no longer need to be confined to their own wards. Instead they will experience a more autonomous hospital stay, focusing on their own rest and rehabilitation while IoMT devices provide regular feedback to physicians.

With the global wireless health market projected to grow from $39 billion in 2015 to $110 billion by 2020, this vision for the future isn’t far from being realised. Already wireless medical equipment has cut down on the time staff spend transporting patient files, manually inputting data and traveling between departments to check information. With such logistical matters taken care of, staff have more time to focus on communicating with patients and building relationships with them.

In order to see fully-connected hospitals, however, we need to turn our thoughts to creating a robust infrastructure with security and compliance at its core. Physicians and patients need to be confident that reporting will be continuous and undisrupted, and that all data transmitted will be safe from cybercrime.

The Future of IoMT

With all of the IoMT advances that we’ve benefitted from over the last years, the future of connected hospitals is an exciting one.

Answering the call of overburdened hospitals caring for an increasingly aging population, these devices will allow for better home care as well as more time-and-cost-efficient care in hospitals and clinics.

While current IoMT devices are impressive on their own, the true future for connectivity is in integrating multiple facets into a single big data driven system, which can be used not only to enhance treatment for sick patients, but to improve the health of all individuals.

If you enjoyed this article, you may want to learn more about how IoMT technology is driving home-based care during trials.