How the Internet of Medical Things Is Disrupting Healthcare

Saving lives through simplicity.

Published by J.P. Holecka on 08.20.2020

The healthcare industry has been slow to transition to digital. A change-averse culture, legacy systems, cost, regulation, and institutionalized workflows have impeded modernization over the years. However, with recent pressure from COVID-19, the medical community has made great strides toward digital transformation. The global internet of things healthcare market is expected to reach a value of $332.67 billion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. With no end in sight for the pandemic and already overburdened and burned-out medical staff, IoMT will provide critical support for the ongoing battle with COVID-19.

What is the Internet of Medical Things?

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is not a new term—it gained traction in 2018—but has recently exploded with the onset of the pandemic. Health Tech defines IoMT as "a connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, and health systems and services." What sets IoMT apart from other IoT ecosystems, according to Deloitte, is the interconnectedness of the medical devices. Wearables—such as stress, heart rate, and sleep trackers—and other remote patient monitoring devices have the ability to generate, collect, analyze, and transmit data directly to healthcare provider networks.

Recent innovations that are saving lives

Telehealth

Telehealth adoption in the US has grown about 3,000% since the start of the pandemic. While industry stalwarts like Teledoc have consistently maintained their reputation in the industry, recent funding announcements from telehealth startups 98.6 and Tytocare have signalled explosive growth and innovation in response to a sharp increase in customer need.

The Mayo Clinic defines telehealth as "the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely." This includes everything from smartphone health tracking apps, remote patient monitoring, to online patient portals, medication ordering services, and virtual appointments. The benefits of telehealth are far-reaching, especially for individuals living in rural areas, and those with limited mobility, time, or transportation.

Remote patient monitoring

With reduced physical access to doctors, remote patient monitoring (RPM) has made it easy to track symptoms and vital signs. Companies like UK-based Current Health use real-time insights to proactively monitor patient health and dispatch information directly to healthcare providers if intervention is needed. Physicians can view a patient's progress remotely and engage virtually to revise treatment plans.

RPM differs from smartphone tracking applications in that apps often require some form of manual input from the user. Remote patient monitoring devices, such as sensors for body temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels, are non-invasive and automatically gather and send data. RPM has been especially useful in the fight against the coronavirus, as Seattle-based Optimize.health discovered. They quickly expanded their RPM portfolio to include COVID-19 screening tools to protect the community, namely healthcare workers.

The benefits of good design

The pandemic, and an increased reliance on IoMT and telehealth, shines a much-needed spotlight on the importance of patient-focused product design. If designed correctly, telehealth and remote patient monitoring devices can better equip physicians to understand and manage their patients' health through a constant stream of data that provides a clear and comprehensive picture, as indicated by Care Innovations. By helping patients understand and manage their own symptoms more clearly, individuals will receive more precise medical attention, reducing unnecessary visitors to doctors, thereby unburdening the medical system.

Disrupting healthcare with a digital product studio

COVID-19 expedited a much-needed change in the healthcare sector with the Canadian government announcing a $240 million investment in digital health, while health innovation funding for the first half of 2020 in the US reached $9.1 billion. Governments and investors are looking toward the tech community to provide solutions for long-term sustainable healthcare—and for a good reason.

Building digital products is a strategic, intentional, and resource-intensive process. It can be hard for governments or corporations to allocate the in-house time and talent and support the agile and iterative culture required to build the calibre of application needed—especially when people's lives are at stake. That's why so many businesses look to digital product design studios to develop their solutions.

Simplifying the medical experience in times of COVID-19 and beyond

Every user of IoMT products and services is unique. Individuals are likely unwell, in pain, or experiencing a medical emergency. A confusing interface or complex navigation can add to a person's distress, or even prevent them from getting help. In a life or death situation, these outcomes are unacceptable. The simpler the experience for patients and physicians, the better.

Hans Hoffman, artist and teacher, said, "the ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary, so that the necessary may speak." Getting to the heart of what is necessary requires substantial research. Asking questions like:

  • How can we drive the best insights through user testing?
  • Who are we designing for, and who might we be excluding?
  • What will be statistically relevant for a specific use case?

All can help to uncover the right data. Simplified products are invaluable in an industry where people's lives depend on a system (and supporting digital products and services) that work.

Inclusive design is necessary for equal access to healthcare

Inclusive design is imperative to ensure telehealth products and services meet all users' needs. According to the 2010 Census, 19% of the US population disclosed having a physical and/or intellectual disability. The same report estimated that by 2050, people of color will make up 53% of the country. Biases within the design, ideation, and creative process must be addressed to guarantee that everyone has access to healthcare. That is where frameworks such as Designing for Diversity™ (D4D) come in. D4D is a methodology that gets overlaid on top of existing business processes and provides guideposts and best practices to design against the dominant culture. Creating products and services that are truly simple for everyone means ensuring all perspectives are taken into consideration, early and often.

How POWERSHiFTER helps patient-centric digital solutions

We're experts at creating solutions for two common needs in digital healthcare. Our design studio works with internal teams to develop a digital extension of a physical product, and we help with stress testing existing digital products.

Digital extension

We’ve helped hardware companies positively impact their bottom line by successfully adding a software component that drastically improves (and simplifies) the user experience. Regardless of industry, we rely on a design thinking approach to better understand users, challenge assumptions, reframe problems, and, ultimately, build innovative solutions for clients. Recently, Delta Controls, a leader in building automation systems, needed an application to connect their O3 Sensor Hubs. In 11 months, we launched an award-winning robust Google Cloud IoT platform that reduced configuration time threefold.

Stress testing

When building a product, teams aren't initially concerned about performance. In practical terms, optimizing for performance while designing and developing is considered a suboptimal process. Because of this, most teams wait to define what the normal operations are and at what point, under load, characteristics start to change. We help internal teams determine their product's boundaries and put in mitigations for stress to ensure the platform can scale with growth. We've saved companies like Energizer millions by helping stress test ideas that, upon further inspection, don't properly address real customer concerns or needs.

Choosing the right partner to build the future of IoMT

Traditional healthcare is undergoing a significant paradigm shift in North America. An industry that has been historically slow to transition to digital is teeming with opportunity and the capital to sustain the momentum. Yet, to save lives and affect change, products and services need to be simple. At POWERSHiFTER, simplicity is at the heart of what we do. Our passionate, empathetic, curious, and collaborative experts have a strong desire to pursue impactful work that changes people's lives. We're ready to partner with like-minded organizations to get the job done.

To learn more about how we can help you improve patient experiences, get in touch.