On the 75th anniversary of World Health Day, it’s notable that this year’s theme is about ‘health for all’. The last decade – and the last three to four years, in particular – have been transformational for healthcare. That includes the R&D investment inspired by the race to develop COVID vaccines and treatments, of course, but it has also been seen in a broader focus on technological solutions to improve patient access and care.
While this is great news for patients, and ultimately gives healthcare workers the necessary capabilities to deliver the best-possible care, the reality of introducing new tools and technological advancements is not straightforward. The implementation of new technologies continues to present the industry with a whole host of challenges.
Firstly, organisations’ tech stacks often exist in a delicate state, with each element working hard to stay in harmony with each other. But, facing issues such as those experienced in the pandemic or just the market-driven need to innovate rapidly, organisations are often under pressure to swiftly adopt new solutions and technologies. This means that, despite being added to solve a problem, each new piece of technology further complicates an organisation’s view of its operations. The implementation of new technologies often presents a series of new challenges in the short term, even if there is an assurance of long-term benefit.
While a bloated tech stack will be problematic, regardless of sector, the healthcare industry is particularly at risk, given the consequences if something goes wrong. It’s no secret that managing thousands of medical devices that deliver patient care every day is a daunting and difficult task, the results of which, quite often, can mean the difference between life and death.
Built-in scalability to protect healthcare IT systems
The good news is that Internet of Things (IoT) is here to save the day, and lives. The adoption of IoT technology within medical devices, more specifically the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), can significantly relieve some of the pressure on healthcare providers, feeding the need for innovation without causing the delicate balance of IT infrastructures to topple over.
Simply put: IoMT can assist healthcare providers by providing better information in a timelier way. It can unite information from different sources and present that back to practitioners in a way that helps them to deliver the most accurate and effective care to patients.
It can also be used – via embedded sensors – to help hospitals and other medical facilities to keep track of the increasing number (and complex nature) of medical devices and equipment units, such as wheelchairs, defibrillators, nebulizers, oxygen pumps and other monitoring equipment. There are also use cases in healthcare insurance, where insurers can use the data collected by IoMT devices to improve underwriting and claims processes.
According to a report by Straits Research, the IoT in healthcare market size was valued at USD 99.58 billion in 2022, and is projected to reach USD 486.34 billion by 2031. These figures make IoMT one of the fastest growing sectors under the IoT umbrella and provide hope for healthcare practitioners and patients alike that some of the strain on global health systems can be alleviated in the coming years.
As use of IoMT proliferates, so too will the number of devices used to connect healthcare professionals with their patients, and therefore infrastructures will need to have built-in scalability. There will then come a need to implement asset management solutions to ensure effective deployment and utilisation of these medical devices. The use of such a solution will provide numerous benefits, including:
- Simplified protection of new medical devices via the deployment of automation, which can be used to immediately and safely provision, manage, and retire IoT devices across a network when required.
- Faster information transfer, made possible by integrations that facilitate seamless flow of data across different supply chain solutions. This will ensure that vital patient information can be sent and received without friction, as well as smoothing the exchange of sensor-based information within key organisational systems.
- Cohesive dashboard style messaging, which collates information from different sources and systems and compiles it into a single, readable data feed. The key feature of this is that any device can communicate with any other device, even if it’s on a distinct system, and that in turn means key medical information can always get where it needs to be for the patient to benefit.
- Practical insights that medical professionals can use to monitor patient conditions, boost the performance of treatments, and increase the availability of functional equipment and devices. This provides end-to-end visibility of assets and enables better planning around the usage, maintenance, and optimisation of IoMT devices.
The agile future of healthcare, with IoMT
While there remain challenges for all of us in various functions of healthcare to address, there’s also a great opportunity for us to really push the quality of patient access and care for all. If we can harness the advancements of technology in the right way, we can realise the promise of an agile future for healthcare.
The seamless implementation of technology will lead to the seamless delivery of care, enabling healthcare providers to become more agile and effective as they treat people around the world. Embracing IoMT is key to this, and ultimately to delivering on the theme of this year’s World Health Day: ‘health, for all.’
About the author
Scott Lundstrom is a long-time industry analyst, CIO, and software developer, supporting complex regulated businesses in healthcare, life sciences, and consumer goods. At AMR, Lundstrom contributed to the original SCOR model, and helped launch the Top 25 Supply-Chain programme. He founded the health industry practice at IDC Research and led that group for 13 years. Lundstrom also held leadership roles in research focused on AI, Cloud, SaaS, enterprise applications, and analytics.