The pharmaceutical industry is always evolving, with the last five years introducing increased focus on developments in technology, patient experience and new ways of approaching data collection. A current hot topic is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), a subset of the Internet of Things (IoT) which connects multiple devices, such as smartphones and wearables, to sensors and network connectivity.
The IoT enables consumers to effectively manage their day-to-day activities remotely. An example of what can now be achieved is the ability to review and change a thermostat on your smartphone from the office or abroad via an app which uses sensors within the house to monitor temperature. This concept is changing the way people live and work, and enhancing the consumer experience, using 21st Century technological advancements.
So, what is the IoMT and what are the benefits of incorporating it into a clinical trial or healthcare application? The IoMT is a collection of medical devices, sensors and applications that connect to healthcare systems via the internet. In the context of patient care this allows patient data to be rapidly transferred to a central hub for further analysis. This constant flow of information allows healthcare professionals (HCPs) to remotely monitor patient wellness, and provide payers with data to support the effectiveness of treatment regimens.
Interest in the IoMT grew significantly toward the end of 2015, when Gartner forecasted that 20.8 billion connected things, including medical devices and sensors, would be in use worldwide by 2020. The ease of connecting a mobile device to a medical device enables HCPs to monitor patient health remotely – in some cases removing the need for regular hospital visits and therefore reducing the burden on HCPs, as well as patients. The data can be transmitted almost instantly from patients’ homes to a server where it can be regularly accessed and measured.
Further driving forces behind IoMT include demographics and economics. With a longer life expectancy comes an increased population over 70 years of age, a population that’s demanding better healthcare and the option to experience this in the comfort of their own home. Improved remote homecare reduces the number of people visiting hospital or needing assisted living which in turn uses less HCP resource.
The IoMT is already being used by health and pharma companies globally – take the Qualcomm Hub, for example. This cloud based infrastructure is already allowing remote patient monitoring, creating a home based ecosystem. With increased focus on remote monitoring we’ll start seeing more of these Qualcomm type solutions. Sensors placed under a carpet could alert caregivers if an individual falls over, ensuring help is sent. Sensors located within the body can monitor heart rate and other vital statistics while those placed in medication can track when a pill has been taken, potentially even going as far as sending a date and time stamp to the HCP.
The benefits of IoMT are huge and could make a real difference in both clinical trials and healthcare programs. The constant data flow from users increases the ability for HCPs to engage patients and improve their overall experience, which in turn improves adherence and persistence. IoMT does this by providing HCPs with more reliable and valuable data than has previously been possible. This data flow from patients also enables the creation of more personalized treatment plans as healthcare providers are able to see patients as individuals who lead different day-to-day lives, not just numbers who generate data during occasional, infrequent hospital visits. The IoMT can ultimately reduce pressure on all healthcare stakeholders and, as a result, providers are recognizing, and adapting to, industry challenges, including data security and privacy, and ensuring connected devices available are compatible, usable, and reliable.
The IoT is becoming more widespread and will continue to grow. Therefore it’s natural that the IoMT will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, driven by the demand for real time data, enabling optimized disease management initiatives with the ultimate aim of improving health outcomes for patients while providing deeper insight into conditions for payers and providers.
Gavin Birchnall is a Senior Solutions Consultant at ERT