Many of you dear readers have probably heard about the modern tech concept called the Internet of Things (IoT). It interconnects many gadgets and indicators within a single network. The interconnected devices may include different interactive speakers, cameras, thermostats, sensors, etc.
Another related concept, however - the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) - may sound less familiar, though it is one of the leading industries among the major types of IoTs. It is a centralized infrastructure of smart devices, dedicated software, and a range of smart healthcare services.
The IoMT is constantly improving the medical field, helping to develop remote monitoring capabilities and automate data collection processes. By 2022, the value of the global IoMT hardware/software market is expected to have reached $158 billion.
Note that advanced devices and smart systems in medicine are not designed with the ultimate goal to reduce the numbers of live medical personnel. Their main purpose is to facilitate their work and optimize routine processes.
Medtech & the Internet of Medical Things
How Connected Medical Devices are Transforming Healthcare
The IoMT interconnects special devices and tools that allow thoroughly tracking the basic human body indications. These are various medical devices that can provide useful remote patient interaction for preventive or curative purposes.
Thus, experts highlight 4 particular categories of application when it comes to such technologies:
- Body tech
- Home tech
- Public tech
- In-Hospital or clinic tech
Body IoMT devices
This category includes various devices that people wear on their bodies. These can be either personal manual tools (home tonometer, for example) or sensors for clinical data collection and analysis.
Home IoMT devices
These are individual emergency response systems, special software for medication notifications or devices for remote patient monitoring. The software for virtual visits to healthcare facilities are also often credited here, but this area still has a number of shortcomings to be polished.
Public use IoMT
This is one of the most highly and regularly developed categories of the IoMT. There are 5 directions in this aspect:
1. Specialized mobile services to help control the health state of passengers while traveling in transport.
2. Intelligent response devices are involved in the first aid process, accelerating many processes.
3. Health check kiosks are small paneled structures to which different touch screens are connected. They improve the initial screening of patients' health status and also reduce the time the medical staff needs to check initial indicators.
4. Medical care devices are medical gadgets that can be used both domestically and in clinical conditions.
5. Logistics devices include everything related to shipment and transportation of medical products and services. This includes pharmaceuticals, surgical supplies, and various related equipment.
In-hospital or clinic IoMT devices
Here, we have different advanced tools that can be commonly used in medical centers, hospitals, and clinics. These can be subdivided into 5 major groups:
1. Asset management. Hardware and software that monitors the condition of capital equipment and mobile assets. For example, infusion pumps and wheelchairs.
2. Staff management. These are various tools and applications for analyzing and optimizing staff productivity.
3. Patient stream management. These devices optimize the med institution performance by identifying bottlenecks or tracking patient movement periods from the operating room to the ward, for example.
4. Supply management. Such devices simplify the process of inventorying hospital supplies, drugs, and medical devices.
5. Environmental monitoring. These include tools for measuring the temperature and humidity of the room, as well as devices for monitoring electricity. They adapt the premises for the convenience of patients and medical staff.
IoMT in Healthcare Delivery Organizations: Preparing & Launching an Effective Risk Management Strategy
Many unique and incredibly useful devices that simplify the work of medical staff. And with the advent of the IoMT or the Internet of Medical Things, managing them has become even easier and more affordable.
Standard processes were accelerated, data became more accurate. However, most healthcare organizations argue that IoMT tools are only useful when properly managed by respectively skilled employees. When used incorrectly, these technologies can have quite unpleasant consequences.
One of the main specifics in employing IoMT capabilities is cybersecurity. The risks associated with this aspect can have the most unpleasant results.
Patient security risks
Unfortunately, any type of digital technology is exposed to cyber-attacks. That’s why IoMT security in smart hospitals is crucial. Unauthorized access to the centralized system may result in equipment failure, delays in operations, and other serious consequences.
Scientists conducted a study that demonstrated that the patient's death would occur immediately, on the first day of the virus attack, which stops the work of elevators, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, as well as refrigerators and other necessary equipment.
Of course, such an integral failure in the system suspends the entire treatment process and leads to an urgent evacuation
Going beyond compliance
The IoMT cybersecurity is quite an issue today. After all, it is still perceived as a major problem of patient care and risk management. Of course, most medical institutions try to treat this aspect with all seriousness, but still, it is a matter of ethics rather than compliance.
Although the issue of compliance is still raised by various medical and health authorities. For example, the Food and Drug Administration guidance for “Postmarket Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices”, released as a draft guidance document.
There are other examples of setting out the IoMT compliance frameworks: the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force report to Congress and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, which is a supplement to the requirements of the Health Insurance Mobility and Liability Act for connecting IoMT devices.
Understanding the tech-powered patient care
Care about the patient, their health and well-being are the main goals of any healthcare facility. And all the hardware, special devices, and software in this matter are designed for the same purpose.
What is a service delivery model in healthcare? How to ensure the proper functioning of the institution in case of unforeseen circumstances? Will patients be moved to the right place if the lift fails? Will medication remain safe in case of electronic lock breakage?
Ensuring proper service in patient care is essential. And for this, you need to set up an algorithm of actions to be undertaken in case of failure of an IoMT device.
Overview as a crucial element of efficient IoMT risk management
We all use a lot of different devices every day. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets are constantly employed by both patients and healthcare professionals. And this is for personal purposes only.
Hundreds of network devices can be used for medical purposes as well. And any of them can be exposed by hackers, so any medical institution simply has to introduce special identification measures.
Also, be sure to monitor the performance of your interconnected devices and data system. A surefire step in security is the introduction of technology that provides real-time network overview.
Classification - IoMT risk management prioritization
If the medical institution wants to properly set up the IoMT security, then it should first set the priorities correctly. Everything should start with the main risk factors. These can be patient safety issues, poor or inappropriate software, unsecured configurations, ease of data leakage, and more.
As in any field of expert activity, continuous education and training are a guarantee of success. In the case of working with the medical field, this guarantee may concern human health, and therefore has a high price.
The Internet of Things and medical devices require a special approach and constant expertise expansion. Personnel should be trained in the operation of the involved devices and be aware of all potential malfunctions.
So any healthcare organization should provide regular training in equipment behavior and must identify a responsible coach. This may be an employee of the organization, someone from the IT department or a representative of the medical equipment provider. It already depends on the specialization and size of the medical institution.
The main thing is that the medical staff is able to use the devices properly so that working with them will bring benefits rather than additional expenses.
Risks reduction & control
A structured approach to cybersecurity certainly has its benefits. Good awareness and overview, correct patient care are all important. But there are basic measures that can significantly reduce the risks.
Complete isolation of the custom Internet of Things and medical devices or segmentation from other devices, quality settings for ports and protocols, installation of updates, monitoring of current models and activity levels - all have a significant impact on the level of security controls.
There is nothing complicated about such a simple process as limiting access of improperly working devices to the IoMT network.
IoMT Emerges as the Advanced Patient Care
Despite a number of weak points and peculiarities of use, the IoMT has already firmly invaded our everyday life. With interconnected devices, patient care has taken on new forms. Many complicated processes have become easier. And there are great advantages to this.
For instance, IoMT devices have become easily accessible to people with disabilities as well as to the elderly who have special needs. Many processes can now be controlled with voice commands: calling a nurse to the ward, switching the volume, reminding patients to take medication can all now be done in an interactive manner.
The capabilities of the smart home assisting features is another prominent side of the IoMT coin. After all, patients often stay alone at home and without outside help, it can be difficult to cope with certain household tasks.
Virtualized assistants help to interact with smart home objects through a regular touch screen.
All in all, smart devices provide great help in working with older patients. They can, for example, carry special devices on the wrist that monitor their location. Or track frequently performed activities such as bathing, walking, sleeping, and exercising.
The device responds to any changes in the patient's physical condition and may indicate the need for urgent medical intervention.
Usual approaches to patient care are gaining more and more new prominent features. Thus, it becomes much easier and accessible to care for loved ones at a distance using remote monitoring tools.
For example, you can control the operation of the air conditioner, heating system, hot water supply, and the amount of their use while away from home. There are also a number of convenient remote access devices, such as an emergency call button, fitness trackers, notification systems, etc.
Medicine is constantly evolving. Pharmaceutical companies are growing, a lot of research is being done to combat the disease, new technologies are being introduced. All these efforts are only to improve the quality of the patient’s life.
And smart devices interconnected by the so-called Internet of Medical Things network are constantly being developed for the same purpose. Of course, like any solution connected to the Internet, they have a number of potential loopholes for cyber attacks.
But still, the benefits they bring to society, the time they save to save lives are far more valuable. And, perhaps, we are on the threshold of a completely new approach to the regular patient care process.