December 4, 2018 - No Comments!

The future of IoT in the Healthcare Market

By dreaming about the vision of the connected medical sensors world you can get the impression that it will flood the market and make our lives easier in a blink of an eye. The road to success in the field of medicine is never simple though. Let me discuss few problems the Healthcare IoT market is facing and give some examples of real applications where technology is changing the lives of patients and doctors.

Internet of Things devices in healthcare:

  • devices that collect patient data in the hospital and automatically send them to the database without the need for a doctor to check each time;
  • connected to the network thermometers, glucometers, etc., examining the patient's condition at home;
  • devices for athletes to track progress during training;
  • technologies that monitor our diet and provide advice;

Cybersecurity takes on special significance

Privacy is the key and medical devices process data that are very sensitive. We do not always want to share information about our diseases with the whole world. Meanwhile, as we wrote in the previous article (link) taking care of security in the IoT segment is not easy. There are proven news about the possibility of attacking such important devices as a heart pacemaker. Most medical implants also do not have the ability to be updated remotely - the installation of a new software version can even be associated with the next operation.

That is why, apart from the precautions that we have already signaled, we should think about additional penetration tests ("good" hackers try to break into the device and thus reveal security gaps), the obligation to encrypt the transmission or introduce security certificates. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already taken steps to introduce IoT device security audits. Other regulators are likely to follow this policy.

High costs

Designing a medical device is expensive and requires compliance with many restrictive standards during the certification process. For this reason, not many design companies undertake to create devices of this type. The price of components, in particular sensors and power systems is also a problem.

However, the situation is improving from year to year. In addition to large medical companies, there are more and more startups on the market that may exacerbate competition (including price one). In addition, more and more design studios are beginning to deal with this topic. At Summer Agency we already have an experience in designing and implementing medical devices. If you have a startup in this segment - drop us a line to discuss ideas 🙂

No communication standards

As the IoT Healthcare market is relatively young, it has not yet developed communication standards that are as widespread as those related to websites. Imagine that you can only browse a company's website using a specific browser. Now it is unthinkable, but even a dozen or so years ago the standards regarding HTML and CSS were inconsistent and the same page could work differently depending on the application used to view it. This situation fortunately changed.

Meanwhile, the communication of medical devices still does not apply universal standard - glucose meters of one company only work with its test strips and transmit data only to its mobile app. The standards for the exchange of medical data are secret and each manufacturer develops their own. It can be said that this is due to the aforementioned concern for security - but the example of the website proves that open, universal and at the same time safe standards can be built.

A collaborative approach has tangible benefits - it can for example provide data to machine learning systems which, by collecting data from various sources, will allow better prediction of treatment results or more accurately diagnose diseases. The key is also the exchange of data between physicians of various specialties, so that they can choose better treatment with a comprehensive picture of the patient (eg having a list of medicines currently being taken).

Real applications

Despite the problems, IoT technologies are being used today in medicine. One of the interesting applications is taken from logistics: tracking and locating resources in the hospital. In the end, a medical facility, despite its special purpose, may also have problems similar to those found in other companies.

For example, one of the hospitals in New York has introduced a monitoring system that shows which beds are currently occupied. System provides location and data of patients. Remote allocation of patients to beds reduced queues in the hospital and reduced waiting time for help.

Another example where resource management is extremely important is a hospital pharmacy, in which drugs must be under strict control. In addition to the concern for ownership, there may be a mistake in the dose of the medication to be dispensed, which may end tragically. These problems are solved by systems based on RFID tags and sensors. There are already intelligent medicine bottles that allow you to locate the package and even remind the patient to take the right dose.

At Summer Agency we have experience in creating record keeping and tracking systems. The RTLS (link) system we have described earlier can be used to monitor the position and operation of (for example) medical devices.

Of course, there is more solutions to improve the care of patients with cardiac problems. Systems appear that allow you to register an ECG signal (ECG) in the patient's home and then send it to the cloud for analysis. Intelligent algorithms will automatically detect abnormalities and notify the doctor. The Polish company Telemedical Innovations (link) is working on such a system. It allows you to make an ECG at home and does not require knowledge about the placement of electrodes, thanks to a specially adapted device.

Future

Over 100M IoT medical devices are working today, and this number will grow to 120M by 2020 according to Statist (link). No wonder that companies are constantly investing in this prospective market.

The development is mainly in the field of new sensors and miniaturization of already present devices. One example is the Google’s project, which involves the creation of an intelligent contact lens that measures blood sugar levels.

 

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