May 26, 2020
THE INTERNET OF MEDICAL THINGS: The coronavirus is catalyzing a need for healthcare IoT in the US — here’s how connectivity and technology providers are carving out their place in the market
Article written by: Rayna Hollander | May 21, 2020
- Healthcare providers have been turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to facilitate their digital transformation since before the coronavirus hit the US — but the pandemicis catalyzing a greater need for the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how healthcare can be delivered in the US, and many healthcare providers are turning to the IoT to augment efforts in preparing for, containing, and diagnosing the virus.
- As the backbone that powers the IoMT, connectivity and technology providers have a mounting opportunity to capture a larger slice of the market as it evolves alongside the pandemic. Before the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare providers were expected to see some of the fastest growth rates of any industry segment in IoT device adoption (29%) and investment (15%). But the pandemic is catalyzing demand for IoT solutions by healthcare providers, and we expect to see even faster growth throughout 2020. We expect this trajectory will outlast the duration of the pandemic — making the IoMT a chief growth area for connectivity and technology providers that are building out their IoT capabilities and exploring new opportunities in the IoT space.
- Business Insider Intelligence expects the coronavirus pandemic will push the North American IoMT market to be worth $66 billion by 2022, up from a pre-pandemic estimate of $45 billion. This estimate is based on the assumption that the pandemic will follow a severe trajectory, in which a vaccine is still not available and businesses are not able to resume normal operations by the fall; or in which a second wave of the coronavirus emerges later in the year, keeping US health systems scrambling for ways to improve virtual care delivery, emphasize preventative care, and automate tasks. A severe trajectory would continue to negatively impact US health systems’ operations throughout 2020, creating a longer time frame during which there’s high demand for the IoT in healthcare.
- We’ve identified three key areas where healthcare providers can reap the most value from IoT initiatives now and post-pandemic — and where connectivity and tech providers should focus their IoMT strategies.
- IoT-enabled remote monitoring solutions can enhance the value of telemedicine by enabling practitioners to deliver remote care that mirrors the in-person experience and allowing care teams to keep tabs on patients with costly prevalent chronic conditions from afar. For example, digital health firm Eko’s AI-powered digital stethoscopes can empower physicians to capture information and insights about patient’s heart and lung function during a telemedicine visit — and the company told us it is seeing a 400-500% increase in the number of inquiries as a result of the pandemic.
- Preventative care. The IoMT can facilitate the healthcare industry’s transition from a reactive care model to a preventive one. The data generated from connected medical devices like wearables and sensor-embedded garments can detect clinical deterioration in real-time, and with heightened accuracy — enabling earlier intervention from providers. For example, sensor-embedded garments like Smardii’s smart diaper can flag signs of health conditions like diabetes and UTIs that often go undiagnosed — and Smardii has seen customer inquiries double since the coronavirus hit the US.
- IoMT solutions can streamline operational tasks to help alleviate burned-out doctors who say admin is a key driver of their workplace stress. For example, IoT tracking and robotic solutions are helping to replace manual systems in hospitals to give more time back to hospital staff. And amid the pandemic, health systems are embracing IoT and robotic solutions that streamline or automate tasks, which can not only reduce practitioner workload but also limit in-person contact and preserve supplies of personal protective equipment — Chris Penrose, AT&T’s SVP Advanced Solutions, told us that post-pandemic it “will be very normal to see robots alongside humans working together in [healthcare] environments.”
- The IoMT opportunities for connectivity and technology providers will only be amplified as the IoT intersects with other emerging technologies. Combined, emerging technologies will strengthen the case for the IoMT in healthcare providers’ digital transformation and coronavirus response efforts.
- Connectivity and technology providers continue to incorporate AI across the IoMT ecosystem — presenting healthcare providers with more opportunities to achieve greater returns on their IoT investments. For example, in September 2019, GE Healthcare earned the FDA’s stamp of approval for its AI-powered mobile X-ray, marking the first time the FDA has approved a tool of its kind. The device can slash time to diagnosis of pneumothorax and brings highly critical patients to the top of radiologists’ priority list, which means hospitals can optimize radiologists’ time and increase efficiency for these high-paid specialists.
- The blending of IoT, 5G, and edge computing will enhance the value of robotic surgery and remote medical services. Robotic surgeries are currently conducted by a surgeon located in the immediate vicinity of a patient; but with the advent of 5G networks, which enable near-instantaneous communication and ultra-low latency, surgeons will be able to operate on a patient on the other side of the country using a robotic system and a remote terminal, or offer a remote diagnosis using a 5G-powered connected ambulance.
- AR technologies can significantly enhance IoMT data visualization. One way IoT-AR solutions can add value to the healthcare industry is by helping surgeons perform minimally invasive surgeries without having to take their eyes off the patient. Rush University Medical Center tested Chicago-based startup Augmedics’ FDA-approved xvision Spine system — which is touted as the first AR guidance system to be used in surgery — with results of 98.9% accuracy. The xvision Spine system allows surgeons to visualize the 3D spinal anatomy of a patient while operating by wearing a wireless headset, eliminating the need to look at a remote screen for navigational and patient data.
- To capitalize onthese IoMT opportunities, connectivity and technology players must identify how to carve out and expand their footprint in ways that unlock the most value.We interviewed executive decision-makers in the connectivity and technology space to gather their insights on how they determine which IoMT opportunities to prioritize and the best go-to-market strategy for these new opportunities.
- Connectivity and tech providers will need to prioritize which IoMT opportunities are worth investing time, resources, and capital in. Connectivity and tech decision-makers weigh factors such as potential return, ease or difficulty of deployment, and scalability and repeatability when making these decisions.
- They must also identify the best-fit strategy to approach these new opportunities, and consider whether it makes the most sense to partner, acquire, or develop new capabilities in-house. Leaders in the space say factors such as existing competition, internal resources, current strengths, and core competencies help them determine whether partnering, acquiring, or developing is the best strategy to pursue.
Healthcare providers have been turning to the IoMT to facilitate their digital transformation since before the coronavirus hit the US. As the healthcare-specific subset of the larger IoT, the IoMT is the ecosystem of internet-connected medical devices like wearables, implantables, and imaging machines that generate, collect, analyze, and transmit health data. Pre-pandemic, nearly half (46%) of US healthcare executives in a 2019 IoT survey from PwC said their organizations were actively using IoT technology, and a further 21% said they had IoT projects in development. And among these respondents, 79% said the IoT would help grow revenue or increase profits, and 54% said their organizations were already using IoT technology to improve operations.
But the pandemic is fundamentally changing how healthcare can be accessed and delivered in the US — and there’s been a sea change in providers’ willingness to implement IoT solutions that enhance virtual care delivery, augment emergency services and triage, and automate tasks.
- The government is encouraging patients to turn to virtual consultations in lieu of making trips to the hospital — and that’s driving a sense of urgency for providers to adopt real-time remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools to keep track of patients’ health from afar and expand the types of applications where telehealth can be delivered.
- Health systems are grappling with the surge in patient volumes both inside and outside of healthcare facilities, which is heightening demand for IoT solutions that predict and prevent clinical deterioration, as well as augment emergency services and triage.
- And the increased effort to minimize patient contact to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and preserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) is driving health systems to implement IoT solutions that limit in-person contact by streamlining or automating operations.
As the backbone that powers the IoMT, connectivity and technology providers have a mounting opportunity to capture a larger slice of the North American IoMT market as the pandemic drives it to be worth $66 billion by 2022, according to Business Insider Intelligence estimates.Before the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare providers were forecast to adopt IoT devices at one of the fastest rates of any industry segment, with the installed base of IoT endpoints expected to grow 29% year-over-year in 2020, per Gartner. And pre-pandemic, healthcare was among the top three industries expected to see the fastest growth rates (15.4%) in IoT investment in terms of spending over the 2017-2022 forecast period, according to IDC. But the coronavirus pandemic is putting a new focus on the IoMT, and we expect to see even faster growth throughout 2020 — and that this upward momentum will outlast the pandemic. Consequently, Business Insider Intelligence expects the coronavirus pandemic will push the North American IoMT market to be worth $66 billion by 2022, up from a pre-virus estimate of $45 billion. This estimate is based on the assumption that the pandemic will follow a severe trajectory, in which a vaccine is still not available and businesses are not able to resume normal operations by the fall; or in which a second wave of the coronavirus emerges later in the year, keeping US health systems scrambling for ways to improve virtual care delivery, emphasize preventative care, and automate operations. A severe trajectory would continue to negatively impact US health systems’ operations throughout 2020, creating a longer time frame during which there’s high demand for the IoT in healthcare.
In this report, Business Insider Intelligence explores how the IoMT opportunity for connectivity providers is evolving alongside the coronavirus pandemic, and how these players are carving out their place in the growing market. We first unpack the opportunities for connectivity and technology providers in the IoMT market and outline how the coronavirus pandemic will impact demand for various IoT solutions in healthcare. We then detail how advancements in connectivity technology are propelling the healthcare IoT space forward. Finally, we explore how connectivity and technology players can expand within the IoMT ecosystem, and share insights from executive decision-makers in the space on how their companies determine the best-fit strategy for pursuing new IoMT opportunities.
Note: Our interview outreach strategy for our reports is to target specific companies and roles within those companies to get a cross-section of businesses across sectors, size, and legacy. We also look to interview sources from diverse backgrounds in order to reflect a mix of experiences and perspectives that help strengthen our analysis. The people we interview for our reports are asked because their expertise helps to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon the data and assertions we provide.
The Three Biggest IoMT Opportunities For Connectivity And Technology Providers
Healthcare providers were turning to the IoT to facilitate digital transformation before the coronavirus hit the US — but the pandemic is catalyzing a need for solutions that enable remote care, emphasize preventative care, and drive operational efficiencies, which in turn is accelerating IoMT implementations. IoT was already top of mind in healthcare execs’ digital transformation strategies pre-pandemic: Nearly half (46%) of US healthcare executives in a 2019 IoTsurvey from PwC said their organizations were actively using IoT in 2019, and a further 21% said they had IoT projects in development. This makes sense, considering the technology is key in facilitating healthcare providers’ digital transformation efforts as they adapt to a changing landscape and several disruptive forces reshaping the industry. Healthcare organizations have to contend with a population that’s growing sicker, the increasing burden of chronic diseases, labor shortages, rising administrative costs, heightened patient expectations for speed and convenience, and reimbursement models that are shifting from fee-for-service to value-based care (VBC). Now, the coronavirus is compounding the need to adapt by placing an unprecedented strain on healthcare providers and fundamentally changing how they can operate and deliver care as patients are urged to stay home for nonurgent care needs. We’ve already seen healthcare providers race to adopt IoT solutions amid the coronavirus pandemic — and we think we could see a lasting impact on the IoMT market even once outbreaks subside.
We’ve identified three key areas where healthcare providers are prioritizing IoT investments — which represent the biggest growth and expansion opportunities for connectivity and technology providers deepening their involvement in the IoMT space. The three areas — telemedicine, preventative care, and operations — were chosen based on conversations with companies entrenched in the IoMT ecosystem, and on our analysis of their impact, scalability, early evidence of value creation, and increased utility amid the coronavirus pandemic.
IoT-enabled remote monitoring solutions can expand the types of applications where telemedicine can be leveraged, which will prop up the overall value of virtual care. Telemedicine refers to a remote consultation with a healthcare professional, usually delivered via two-way video conferencing or a voice-only visit over the phone. Health systems and hospitals are increasingly investing in telemedicine, especially as demand for virtual care services has surged amid the pandemic. RPM tools that capture and provide practitioners with real-time patient data regardless of location are critical to ensuring that the quality of virtual care mirrors the in-person experience, and that telemedicine can supplant annual in-person physical exams, be leveraged for ongoing disease management, or act as a patient’s first touchpoint with the healthcare ecosystem. This is because RPM helps to address a shortcoming that’s hindered telemedicine adoption on both the patient and provider sides: namely, the lack of physical access to equipment, tests, and diagnostic facilities. The largest share of respondents (41%) to an April 2020 survey of US adults said they were concerned about the ability to get proper treatment or diagnosis in a virtual setting, when asked what might deter them from making a future telehealth appointment. And nearly one-third of the 2,700 US medical practicessurveyed by the Sevocity division of Conceptual MindWorks in April 2020 said that the biggest barrier to effective telehealth delivery is that their specialty doesn’t work well with telehealth.
Here are two examples of how IoT-enabled remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions can enhance the value of telemedicine:
- RPM devices like digital stethoscopes can enable practitioners to deliver remote care that mirrors the in-person experience. For instance, health systems like Sutter Health and Children’s Hospital Colorado are using digital health firm Eko’s AI-powered digital stethoscopes, which include a built-in single-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) monitor and can gather, analyze, and send readings to a paired smartphone to provide practitioners with real-time patient data and insights on heart and lung health. This means patients who would otherwise have to come into a facility for a routine check-up or to monitor known heart and lung conditions can now have an adequate appointment via telemedicine. Additionally, remote analysis can help physicians determine if a patient needs medical intervention — which in turn can help to reduce government-imposed readmission penalties under value-based payment schemes. For example, StationMD is a physician-owned and -operated telemedicine company that has incorporated Eko’s digital stethoscope and livestreaming technology into its telemedicine platform to provide physicians with easy access to real-time stethoscope audio during virtual patient appointments — which has helped StationMD’s physicians reduce ER transfer rates by 80%.
- RPM devices like blood glucose monitors can improve medication adherence and drive down US health systems’ share of costs associated with chronic diseases. For example, digital therapeutics (DTx) vendor DarioHealth announced in May that it’s pairing MediOrbis’ telehealth services with its mobile glucose management system for diabetes patients. DarioHealth provides a disease tracking and management app, as well as a connected phone attachment that houses a lancing device, glucose meter, and testing strip holder. Patients using DarioHealth’s app can now access virtual primary and acute care services, as well consultations with medical specialists through MediOrbis’ MySpecialistMD network. In a clinical study, DarioHealth found that 45% of patients using its platform reduced their average blood glucose levels to under 140 mg/dL after only three months of use, highlighting the value of digital tools in managing diabetes. We expect that the integration of RPM solutions with telehealth services will not only improve personal diabetes management, but also help better inform treatment plans, which could help US healthcare firms slash the $237 billion spent on diabetes each year.
How The Coronavirus Is Impacting Demand For IoT Solutions That Enhance Telemedicine
The coronavirus is driving urgency among clinicians to adopt telemedicine services as stay-at-home advisories discourage patients from seeking out nonurgent care in person — and that’s driving uptake of RPM tools and devices. The US government is encouraging consumers to turn to virtual consultations in nonurgent situations in lieu of making trips to the hospital and, as a result, traditional providers are bulking up their virtual care services with longer lists of features. Therefore, Business Insider Intelligence expects US telehealth adoption will jump up 11 percentage points from January to June, at which point 22% of US adults will have used telehealth to communicate with a doctor or care team. We anticipate penetration levels will broach 27% by the end of the year in the case of a severe pandemic trajectory — many patients won’t be able to put off appointments for an entire year, and will be forced to interact with their care teams at a distance. As providers turn to telehealth and adoption increases, we think healthcare providers will turn to RPM tools like Eko’s and DarioHealth’s to deliver adequate care services from afar. Eko, for example, has witnessed a massive increase in demand for its AI-powered digital stethoscope, with Eko CEO Connor Landgraf telling Business Insider Intelligence that they’ve “probably seen a 400-500% increase in the number of inquiries.” And in May, the FDA issued Eko an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its novel EKG-based algorithm to improve detection of heart failure during the coronavirus. We also think RPM solutions will be important to keep tabs on patients with prevalent chronic conditions as the pandemic rages on. Nearly 70% of patients with chronic illnesses say that the coronavirus is impacting their ability to manage their conditions, and fewer than 40% think they’ll be able to properly manage their health during the pandemic — underscoring the need for IoT solutions that help with disease management.
Enabling Preventative Care
IoMT solutions can facilitate the healthcare industry’s transition from a reactive care model to a preventive one. The US health system has historically been based on a “sick care” model, in which the majority of patient care is focused on treating diseases and illnesses, rather than on preventing them. But as private insurers and government agencies drive the shift to value-based care (VBC), providers are being forced to cut down on unnecessary medical services and emphasize preventive care. The data generated from connected medical devices like wearables and sensor-embedded garments can help medical teams become more proactive in their care delivery because they facilitate real-time interventions in response to vital data changes. For instance, IoMT devices have the ability to detect clinical deterioration in real time, and with heightened accuracy, which can help practitioners initiate treatments that will lower the risk of needing costly medical services, prevent ER admissions, and drive up patient lifetime value.
Here are two examples of how IoMT solutions can facilitate the healthcare industry’s shift to preventive care and help providers cut down on unnecessary medical services:
- Sensor-embedded devices can flag signs of health conditions that often go undiagnosed. For example, hospitals, nursing homes, and elder care facilities are using biotech company Smardii’s smart diaper to flag patients who are at risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease, or urinary tract infections. The company’s disposable sensor attaches to a diaper and is designed for real-time monitoring of body temperature, body positioning, abnormalities in urine and stool, and can conduct real-time urinalysis. The disposable sensor transmits health data and insights to a mobile app that can alert practitioners of patients’ clinical deterioration. By enabling practitioners to detect conditions at their onset, when they are much more manageable, it can not only lead to improved patient outcomes but also rein in spending on costly conditions like diabetes — the seventh-leading cause of death in the US.
- Wearable medical devices are helping providers predict and prevent cardiovascular and respiratory complications. For example, Augusta University Medical Center deployed Philips’ wearable biosensor — which collects data on movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature, and integrates with Philips’ predictive analytics software to pinpoint patients with declining health — and registered an 89% reduction in patient deterioration into preventable cardiac or respiratory arrest events. With the ability to catch heart and lung disease symptoms earlier, health systems can limit the progression of complications, enabling them to reap the savings that would accompany early detection of these costly conditions: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the US — with related costs projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2035 — and patients diagnosed with respiratory failure have the highest inpatient hospital death rate in the US, according to the latest CDC estimates.
How The Coronavirus Is Impacting Demand For IoT Solutions That Emphasize Preventative Care
IoT solutions like Smardii’s and Phillips’ can help clinicians determine who they actually need to come into contact with, which can help enhance care delivery by augmenting emergency services and triage. We think such solutions have increased utility during the pandemic as the risk of transmission mounts among consumers and providers alike. For example, Smardii CEO Sebastien Gaddini told Business Insider Intelligence that the company has “easily seen customer inquiries double since the coronavirus.” The company’s disposable sensor can help practitioners know ahead of time if there’s any risk of infection or clinical deterioration, allowing them to know which patients need to be attended to so they can minimize unnecessary contact with patients and increase efficiency. And we expect IoT solutions that emphasize preventative care will retain their value to healthcare providers even after the dust from the pandemic settles, as once hospitals have adopted the tech, they’ll realize the value in its ability to improve patient outcomes and drive efficiencies in workflows.
IoT solutions can streamline operational tasks to help alleviate burned-out doctors who say admin is a key driver of their workplace stress. The US is projected to face a shortage of about122,000 physicians by 2032 — and a scarcity of 670,000 healthcare workers, including nurses and home health aides, by 2025. These shortages will place a heavier administrative burden on a waning number of medical professionals who are already suffering from burnout, which afflicts nearly half of US doctors and costs the US $5 billion each year. And the pandemic is adding another layer of strain to already burned-out doctors: Influxes of patients, equipment, PPE shortages, and high rates of healthcare staffing cuts are placing a greater burden on doctors. IoT solutions can help healthcare providers address these problems by streamlining and automating administrative tasks — which account for one-quarter of hospital expenses in the US — in ways that ensure the optimal utilization and allocation of resources and care, track patient and clinician movement, and limit disruptive downtime, all of which can also improve cost management.
Here are two examples of how IoMT solutions can drive operational efficiencies:
- IoT tracking solutions are replacing manual tracking systems in hospitals to automate tasks and give more time back to hospital staff. Sensors, tags, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tech can be used to track both physical and nonphysical assets such as machinery, equipment, medication, medical waste, employees, patients, and documents. Hospitals can use IoT solutions to track when staff members arrive, how many patients are being cared for, how many patients practitioners attend to, how much time is spent on patient care and administrative tasks, and where medical equipment is located, among other things. The data collected from IoT tracking solutions can offer healthcare providers insights about where more efficiencies can be realized. For example, the University Health System’s Hospital (UHS) in San Antonio, Texas deployed Zebra’s tracking tech to automate workflow around the availability and utilization of mobile medical equipment and was able to increase IV pump equipment utilization rates from less than 45% to 70%. Additionally, UHS found the wait time before receiving an IV pump decreased from as much as 2 hours to just 8-12 minutes with the technology.
- Wireless IoT sensors can be used in place of staff to monitor a variety of environmental factors for hospitals, such as the temperature of fridges, at heightened accuracy. Ivo Rook, Sprint’s SVP of IoT, told Business Insider Intelligence that “together with a partner, we came up with a solution to put a small meter inside fridges, which automatically calibrates and shows that they’re adhering to the regulation and regulate the temperature. These are very simple, but [have] massive cost savings.” Rook explained that hospitals have about 20 different temperature shelves — containing things like heat-sensitive pharmaceuticals, vaccines, organs, blood plasma, medical equipment, and even food — and practitioners like nurses monitor them by “walking around with literally paper and pens to write down the temperature at every fridge, all the time.” Temperature monitoring solutions like Sprint’s can help to ensure shelves maintain the required temperature and allow providers to reallocate staff who normally monitor and regulate temperature shelves to more important tasks, like face time with patients. For context physicians on average spend 2 hours of screen time for every hour spent with patients.
How The Coronavirus Is Impacting Demand For IoT Solutions That Drive Operational Efficiencies
The increased effort to minimize contact amid the pandemic is driving healthcare organizations to deploy IoT solutions that help preserve PPE.
- Five US hospitals have jumped to test Medtronic’s first-of-its-kind ventilator that can be monitored and adjusted remotely. Medtronics’ ventilator, which was created in response to the pandemic, is helping to cut down on hospital use of PPE by allowing practitioners to remotely monitor and adjust the ventilator via a laptop computer from anywhere throughout a hospital. As part of the pilot, Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota found that Medtronics’ remotely monitored ventilator reduced the number of times staff is going in and out of rooms by nearly 50%, and that staff will have 450 fewer in-room visits over the average two-week duration of ventilator use.
- Over 500 healthcare facilities worldwide, over 60 US Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, and several US Department of Defense facilities have deployed AT&T-powered germ-zapping connected robots. In April, AT&T teamed up with XENEX to power the latter company’s LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots, which use UV light to perform environmental disinfection throughout hospital rooms and can be more effective than traditional cleaning methods — which helps hospitals avoid the spread of infections without risking staff and reduces the need for staff to put on PPE when entering a new patient room. In speaking with Business Insider Intelligence about the partnership, Chris Penrose, SVP Advanced Solutions for AT&T, explained that the added connectivity helps healthcare facilities analyze how their disinfection programs are performing with real-time data provided through AT&T.
We expect that healthcare organizations will continue to embrace IoT and robotics solutions that streamline or automate tasks entirely, even after the pandemic abates. These solutions can limit instances where there’s a need to wear PPE, which is important given the US is already facing a shortage of PPE that puts healthcare professionals at risk of exposure to potentially infected patients. While these IoT solutions are in the spotlight now, we expect that they’ll continue to have utility in helping combat other deadly pathogens like MRSA, which is resistant to all beta-lactam antibiotics like penicillin and caused 119,00 infections and almost 20,000 associated deaths in the US in 2017. When speaking to AT&T’s Penrose, he told us that post-pandemic it “will be very normal to see robots alongside humans working together in [healthcare] environments.”
Technology Fueling Opportunities For Connectivity And Tech Providers In The IoMT
The IoMT opportunities for connectivity and technology providers will only be amplified by the advancement and proliferation of emerging tech that increases the value of the IoT in healthcare. The intersection of the IoT and emerging technologies including AI, 5G, edge computing, and augmented reality will strengthen the case for the IoMT as part of healthcare providers’ digital transformation and coronavirus response efforts — combined, these technologies will unleash new possibilities in healthcare IoT and heighten the value of the technology in key IoMT use cases.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Connectivity and technology providers continue to incorporate AI across the IoMT ecosystem, offering healthcare providers opportunities to achieve greater returns on their IoT investments.IoT systems that employ AI harness the power of computing systems — either on the cloud or at the edge — to parse the data that connected devices generate and then supply intelligent feedback. While AI algorithms have been incorporated in end-point IoT devices for several years now, David Ryan, the General Manager, Health & Life Sciences Business at Intel, told Business Insider Intelligence that what’s changing is that the technology is becoming pervasive in IoMT solutions.
Here are some examples of how AI is arriving across the IoMT ecosystem and creating even more value for healthcare providers:
- AI is increasingly being used in IoMT endpoint devices to aid in clinical diagnosis. GE Healthcare’s Mobile X-Ray was the first very first FDA-approved use of an AI software model in a medical device. GE Healthcare’s AI platform, which the FDA cleared in September 2019, can detect pneumothorax at the point of the scan, with 96% sensitivity for large pneumothoraxes and 75% for small pneumothoraxes. This can help radiologists prioritize treatment for cases of the condition, which afflicts 74,000 people in the US each year, GE Healthcare reports.
- AI is proliferating across on-premise image storage systems to improve the productivity of staff. Hospitals’ on-premise image storage systems have a suite of AI models available from imaging companies for radiologists, for example. AI and ML can improve the productivity of clinical staff working with images and bolster triage care by evaluating hundreds of scans in just minutes and bringing the most critical to the top of the stack.
- And we’re seeing health systems integrate AI into their cloud and data centers to support precision medicine. Deep learning-based trained models can be used to parse through population data derived from medical IoT devices over time and over the entire system to look at workflow utilization, detect emergent risks, and support precision medicine. Ryan added the example that trained models can help in “finding patients that are at risk for toxicosis and intervening more quickly.” And with the coronavirus sweeping across the US, these models could prove especially useful for identifying patients at risk for developing serious cases of the virus.
5G And Edge Computing
The intersection of IoT and 5G will break the ceiling of possibility for the IoMT. 5G networks are faster, more efficient, and farther-reaching than their predecessors: 5G is pegged to be more than 10 times faster than 4G and boasts 50 times lower latency. On top of the speed boost, 5G networks possess a tenfold advantage over 4G networks in terms of the number of connected devices they can support. The ubiquity of 5G makes it optimal to handle the trillions of connected devices that will come onto the network over the next 10 years. This means 5G will offer stronger support for IoMT use cases that typically involve large numbers of connected devices in concentrated areas, such as hospital environments and connected ambulances. On average, there are 10 to 15 connected medical devices per patient bed in US hospitals, according to Zingbox cited by Fierce Healthcare. AT&T’s Chris Penrose explained to Business Insider Intelligence that one of the biggest benefits of 5G is “this massive connectivity of everything — massive IoT.”
5G also enables edge computing — an increasingly important new technology within the IoMT that allows computing tasks to be performed more efficiently near the site of data creation. 5G networks enable processing of data and information to happen at the edge of the network, which can save companies from sending unnecessary data to the cloud and thus can enable faster decision-making with less lag from that transmission. Packet CEO Zac Smith told Business Insider Intelligence that this is a big paradigm shift within the healthcare industry. According to Smith, the combination of edge computing and 5G will provide the “perfect opportunity” to introduce other technologies, including image recognition, that can add intelligence to IoT device data in real time.
Combined, these new technologies will enhance the value of robotic surgery and remote medical services. Robotic surgeries are currently conducted by a surgeon located in the immediate vicinity of a patient. But with the advent of 5G networks that enable near-instantaneous communication and ultra-low latency, surgeons will be able to perform remote procedures that are currently impossible under present network limitations. 5G could enable a highly specialized surgeon to operate on a patient on the other side of the country, for instance, using a robotic system and a remote terminal. This type of use case was already demonstrated by a veterinary surgeon in China. And in the UK, British Telecom (BT) and the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) in November 2019 tested a remote diagnostic procedure using a connected ambulance powered by BT’s 5G network. In the demonstration, a clinician located two miles away from the ambulance used a VR headset and joystick to remotely view live feeds and guide a robotic glove worn by a paramedic. The connected ambulance was able to share live measurements of clinical data and medical records with the physician in real time. For these use cases to work, the connection requires real-time synchronization, which was not possible with previous cellular technologies due to latency. But as 5G networks proliferate, with latency as low as 1ms, every movement from the physician will be reflected by the robots in real time.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR technologies can be leveraged to significantly enhance IoMT data visualization. IoMT solutions can use real-time performance data, advanced analytics, and AR technologies to combine various types of data into a single view and help people view data more intuitively in three dimensions so they can better navigate their environment and analyze their surroundings. That’s because the IoT and AR both bring data across the boundary from the digital world into the physical world. We spoke to PTC CEO James Heppelmann about why AR blends well with the IoT, and he told us: “IoT and AR are both big drivers of digital transformation, and AR can help to unlock the potential of IoT by creating a replica of the physical world in the digital world.”
Here are two ways IoT-AR solutions can add value to the healthcare industry:
- AR can help surgeons perform minimally invasive surgeries without having to take their eyes off the patient. In minimally invasive surgeries, surgeons make a small incision and insert tiny cameras and instruments to navigate inside the patient’s body, but there are a few setbacks: Surgeons need to continually switch their focus among several sources of information, and they cannot receive all the necessary insights from the 2D video streams provided by the inserted cameras, per PTC. IoT-AR solutions can help overcome thesechallenges, as they can allow a surgeon to stay focused on the patient during the entirety of the procedure. For instance, Chicago-based startup Augmedics in January received FDA 510K clearance for its AR image guidance system, which the company touts as the first AR guidance system to be used in surgery and which is now available for sale in the US. Additionally, the xvision Spine system (XVS) allows surgeons to visualize the 3D spinal anatomy of a patient during surgery by wearing a wireless headset that emulates X-ray vision. The xvision system leverages the headset camera to superimpose real-time navigation data — such as the position and trajectory of surgical tools, implants, and patient’s CT data — onto the surgeon’s retina, allowing the surgeon to see patient and navigational data without having to look at a remote screen. Rush University Medical Center tested the xvision system and results revealed 98.9% accuracy.
- And the tech can expand telemedicine support to internet-challenged locations.Rural hospitals are increasingly turning to telehealth solutions to enable remote care amid the coronavirus pandemic, but many across the US are struggling to reach patients with poor or no internet connection at all. To address this challenge, smart glass and AR technology supplier Vuzix partnered with Sprint in late April to introduce a remote worker connectivity bundle that provides Vuzix healthcare customers with a reliable network to support remote applications via its smart glasses. The bundle consists of Sprint’s Curiosity IoT core network via an Inseego hotspot and Vuzix’s AR glasses, Zoom connector, and remote assist technology. Vuzix CEO and President Paul Travers says the bundle is “an ideal solution for COVID-19 telemedicine support in internet-challenged locations such as rural hospitals, nursing homes, and other remote medical facilities.”
Expansion Within The IoMT Market
The possibilities for IoT applications in the healthcare industry are virtually limitless, but connectivity and technology companies need to carefully evaluate and prioritize which ones are worth investing time, resources, and capital in.
In our conversations with several connectivity and technology decision-makers, we uncovered three key factors execs take into consideration before pursuing an IoMT opportunity.
- Potential return. Assessing the risk factors — such as existing competition, potential demand, the likelihood of leadership, and internal resources — are important considerations when evaluating the expected ROI of a new business opportunity. The larger the market, expected demand, and ability to establish leadership in a segment, the more enticing it is for a company to move in and offer or support a product or solution.
- Scalability and repeatability. If a company can build a repeatable and scalable business model to address an opportunity, it will be better equipped to rapidly adapt to change and continue to add value, while retaining or increasing revenue from existing customers and achieving minimal churn. Additionally, if a solution is valuable to various groups of customers or could be adapted to serve multiple industries, it will be more worthwhile to pursue. Companies can assess an opportunity based on the ability to grow and adapt to changes in demand, whether in terms of different use cases, distribution channels, payment methods, or end users.
- Level of ease or difficulty in deployment. A new IoMT opportunity can be evaluated based on the level of difficulty in bringing an in-demand product or solution to market. This can be measured by considering how fast a company will be able to bring a product to market, whether it has appropriate internal resources, and the chances of success a company will have with the FDA to be able to distribute a product or solution to healthcare providers or practitioners.
Connectivity and technology companies must also identify the best-fit strategy for approaching these new opportunities. How a company proceeds can take many different forms, and in several instances it will require a company to forge partnerships, make acquisitions, or employ an internal strategy.
In determining whether to develop a new IoMT solution in-house, to partner, or to acquire, connectivity and technology providers are considering three key factors:
- Internal resources. Because building a solution in-house that meets customers’ needs can be difficult and costly — requiring both direct product development costs as well as marketing, sales, and implementation expenses — it’s only an option for companies that have the talent and financial resources to do so. For those that have these resources, an in-house approach can enable connectivity and technology providers to tailor their solutions for their customer’s needs, affording them control over the entire development process.
- Existing competition. If a company with strong brand identity or market penetration already provides a solution for the use case or segment of the IoMT that a connectivity or technology provider is interested in pursuing, then the provider should consider the partner strategy — as ousting such a leader could be difficult and costly — or the acquisition strategy if the company can provide a fast track to building a solution quickly. But if there aren’t any third parties fulfilling that market need, then the company may be better off building the solution internally. Connectivity and technology players can look for opportunities to fill an unmet need by having conversations with existing customers to gauge any gaps between the products they’re receiving and what they need.
- Current strengths and core competencies. The ability to locate a niche in the IoMT market where a connectivity or technology provider can play to their strengths and find a strong value proposition can help to determine which development strategy makes the most sense. Connectivity and technology providers should consider the following questions: Is this opportunity closely aligned with our existing capabilities and offerings? Is it relevant to our brand? Is our organization likely to either emerge as a leader or carve out a niche within the IoMT market that plays to our strengths? The more of these questions to which a connectivity and tech provider can answer “yes,” the greater the return on investment will be, making it worthwhile to either compete and develop the IoMT offering in-house or search for possible acquisition targets.
When considering the partnership strategy, there are four main factors connectivity and technology providers are looking at:
- Alignment in strategy. Providers are more likely to prioritize a partnership with companies that offer solutions which could be adapted to or bundled with a wider offering, and that are embracing strategies similar to own.
- Maturity. Companies with a nationwide or global presence and that have a clear understanding of how they will distribute their services are more likely to be pursued for partnership.
- A vision of transformation. If a company has a differentiated offering that’s poised to move the needle in a segment within the IoMT market and provide a ROI, there’s is greater likelihood a connectivity and technology provider will want to select that company as a partner.
- Willingness to adopt new technology. Providers will be more likely to prioritize a partnership with health systems that are forward-looking and more willing to embrace new technology.
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