How the Internet of Medical Things can transform the patient experience

Matt O’Donovan, CEO, WiFi SPARK, writes about how the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) can affect patient care.

The “Internet of Medical Things” (IoMT) is a booming marketplace—MarketsandMarkets valued the IoMT market at $41.2 billion in 2017 and expects this to rise to $158.1 billion by 2022.

The IoMT covers a range of applications, from patient monitoring through to medication management, location services, connected imaging, and telemedicine. At the same time, microchip technology is reaching nano levels, the cost of sensor production is decreasing, and WiFi network capabilities are growing faster and becoming more secure, able to handle more connected devices with every iteration. These factors combined means the concept of the IoMT is fast becoming a reality.

As such, we are starting to see mainstream players get in on the action. Apple recently gained FDA approval for the Apple Watch 4, while Samsung is developing the S-Patch ECG monitor—clear indicators that the IoMT is not a marketplace to ignore.

A market set to be transformed by the IoMT is the patient experience. While we’ve already seen technology provide GP appointments via video conferencing or applications designed to address patient waiting times, more needs to be done when it comes to adopting IoMT to enhance the patient experience within hospitals.

Transforming the patient experience

Much of the focus with the IoMT is on delivering patient care—after all, it is the main focus of our NHS. Increasingly we are seeing connected services that enhance the Patient Experience take priority, such as online appointment scheduling systems, or self-check in terminals, that bring the experience in line with patient expectations.

The premise of the IoMT is built on internet-connected devices—and today, almost every patient has one of these in their pocket. Most people today have a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop, and hospitals need to maximise the interaction with these readily available devices when thinking about the IoMT to enhance the patient experience.

When bringing your own device to a hospital, you want to be able to use it as you would outside of hospital walls, but to date, this hasn’t been attainable. One key benefit of IoMT is that it allows technology to be integrated, almost invisibly—you don’t need to overhaul an entire hospital IT network to implement new patient services.

Platformification is a model that has transformed our lives as consumers outside of hospital walls and the app frenzy means today, we are accessing hundreds of different services via a single channel. This is something that can be replicated throughout hospitals, too. A system that allows patients to watch TV, read books, call loved ones, watch educational videos, request assistance, all from their own device, the list is almost endless.

The ability to have many different needs addressed in one single channel is one of the great benefits of IoMT, one that is encouraging more NHS Trusts to adopt these new technologies as part of their digital transformation strategies. For the patients, the IoMT also offers independence. If patients can order their meals on their own device or can request a glass of water or a blanket without bothering staff, they get a level of control they didn’t have previously.

Fears of the past holding back the future

With budgets shrinking, it is no surprise that the NHS is erring on the side of caution when it comes to adopting IoMT to enhance the patient experience. It’s no secret that in the past, the NHS has been badly treated by third party service providers and tied into long term contracts that has left them with outdated technology. TV is a perfect example, often costing patients as much as £9-per-day.

Trusts and Boards fear the costs of implementing new systems. Of course, considerations need to be made. For example, Trusts operate differently in geographical regions, which means they all have their own processes, budgets and policies to adhere to. IoMT doesn’t have to be a difficult or costly exercise and once hospitals are able realise how simple and affordable it is to implement new technology, IoMT will become more widespread across the UK.

A whole new era

We’ve seen Apple really spearhead the idea of an ecosystem, and this concept will become vital for the IoMT’s future. In the very same way that we have apps for every element of our  lives, the app model can be applied to the IoMT and the patient experience with apps that allow patients to check in and out of hospital, apps that allow you to pay for car park fees, check the status of A&E waiting times, through to apps of the future that are beyond our imagination. A seamless, entirely connected experience is on the horizon, and IoMT will continue to boom because of it.

This same model doesn’t only need to be applied to patients, either. For staff, being able to access important documents in the same way will also improve the overall functionality of hospitals. If staff can access what they need in one place, then some of that unnecessary stress is removed from their job. This will result in better patient care as staff can work in a more seamless manner.

With the exponential growth of the market, it’s imperative for healthcare organisations to ensure they’re prepared for its arrival. NHS Trusts and Boards that are able to let go of the fears of their past, and embrace new technology that can transform the patient experience without the high costs, are sure to revolutionise the healthcare sector now, and for years to come.


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