There is no invention that changed the way we consumed information more than the Internet. Then came the Internet of Things (IoT), when we realized that networking and communicating devices in the real world can also improve our lives. IoT brought interesting ideas, new conveniences and advancements to the way the physical world around us listens to our needs and wishes.
The next evolution, however, is not going to change the world around us but rather the world within. That’s right, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is poised to improve the single most important thing to each and everyone of us: our health. And in plenty of ways, we’re already seeing those improvements.
The Internet of Medical Things isn’t some far-off concept, reserved for the likes of cyberpunk and biohacking. Companies are already starting to understand the benefit of making our bodies’ largely automated processes visible and trackable.
Consider wearables like the Apple Watch and Fitbit. Much like our smartphones, these devices are designed to stay with us as much as possible. And just like our smartphones, these devices are not always just sending us information but rather gathering data about us.
While this might alarm some people because of privacy concerns, these devices are designed first and foremost to be tools to make our lives better. When your Fitbit buzzes on your wrist and reminds you to take some steps, it is trying to get you to be more active. Or when your Apple Watch detects irregular heart rhythms, you can possibly get an early alert to serious medical problems.
While wearables might be the most high-profile part of the IoMT, there are advancements that seem like something out of science fiction. For example, one of the most interesting developments is the smart pill.
Much like normal pills, a smart pill is digestible. However, once it is consumed, it can alert a device–typically a smartphone. This helps with patient adherence and provides a reliable way for forgetful patients (or patients suffering from dementia, for instance) to see if they actually took their pill or if they just thought they had. Furthermore, patients can then share information with medical professionals, who can help track adherence. Smart pills could also help identify potentially dangerous medicine interactions.
In a lot of ways, the medical field has always been interested in data. Heart monitors, EKGs, various scanning technology–everything is about understanding what’s happening inside a patient.
The IoMT takes that idea and expands it. Patients can choose what information is shared, so instead of a single doctor digesting that information, specialists both at a hospital or in a medical network can look at your body’s information and see what’s going on.
One of the biggest challenges facing healthcare has always been communication, not data collection. The IoMT hopes to rectify that problem by smartly communicating information to the proper experts while respecting patients’ right to privacy. By automating this process, patients can help their medical providers find problems before they become serious.
It’s not just patients that will benefit from the IoMT. Ultimately, the IoMT could help the healthcare industry save millions if not billions of dollars in both reduced expenses and increased income. And when you factor in the idea that some devices like wearables help promote a healthier, the healthcare system saves even more money through preventative care.
Patients live healthier lives, hospitals and network providers save money, and everyone benefits. The magnitude of advancement we saw from the Internet and the Internet of Things could just as easily happen again thanks to the Internet of Medical Things.