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As the global market for the internet of medical things (IoMT) continues to experience exponential growth, the entire landscape of the healthcare industry will continue to evolve and change, all in the name of more efficient patient care.

The IoMT refers to an infrastructure of connected medical devices, health systems services and software applications which does wonders for the medical industry. It has been proven that this technology has the ability to minimize incorrect diagnosis and improve services through its enablement of carrying out more consistent and accurate monitoring of patients.

The MENA region’s market for IoMT is expected to double in size. It was previously worth $2 billion in 2017 and is forecasted to increase to $9billion by 2022, accounting for a 35% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). As for the global IoMT market, it was worth $41.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to be valued at US$158.1 billion by 2022.

The MENA region, especially the more advanced markets within it, have been quick to adopt this technology into their national healthcare strategies. In fact, research carried out by MENA Research Partners (MRP) found that the healthcare sector of the UAE, one of the most advanced markets in the MENA region, accounts for 26% of the expenditure on healthcare by the governments of the GCC region.

It is no doubt that the benefits of IoMT are substantial and 2019 was a defining year for this market as a great deal of breakthroughs took place.

Cost-effective

Above all else, a key advantage of the use of IoMT would be that it has proven to be highly cost-effective.

As hospitals make a huge amount of purchases, it may be difficult to keep track of how much is really needed; thanks to IoMT, hospitals are now able to keep track of their supplies and purchases therefore minimizing excessive purchases. This can be done through attaching tracking tags to medicine containers, for instance, which will in turn enable hospital workers to track the whereabouts of the supplies and stay up to date on the stock levels.

Also, IoMT, in the form of connected medical equipment, could often provide internal metrics which will indicate to the hospital worker whether a device is working appropriately or not. Access to this information will mean that hospital workers can alert their superiors about an impending device malfunction so as to repair it and avoid gadgets from breaking down completely, inherently saving the hospital from spending more on purchasing new equipment.

Resource management

Since the prevalence of IoMT, it has been proven that it ensures greater efficiency in managing chronic conditions and the usage of hospital facilities.

Face-to-face visits can often be time-consuming for hospitals, especially when the time and resources need to be dedicated to those with more serious conditions. The use of wearable technologies will enable doctors to track the progress of their patients from a distance, whereby the technology will collect data to which the doctor will be able to use for analysis. This could also be done in the case of obtaining feedback on a specific patient’s reaction or side effects from a certain medication. This data could indeed be a very resourceful source of information for doctors to give them greater insight into how one medication could affect each independent patient differently.

Another issue to consider here would be patient-provider engagement. If not enough attention is given to specific patients, it could mean a considerable loss of resources and may lead to confusion among caregivers and patients which could in turn lead to the patient’s readmission into the hospital or another medical facility.

IoMT brings with it the promise to finally bridge the gap between patients and providers in a way that enables physicians to provide detailed and personalized insights to patients about medication, risk reduction and discharge instructions.

An example of this would be “precision engagement” which is offered by GetWellNetwork, a company dedicated to offering patients a “highly connected, seamless experience along every step in the care journey”. This is achieved through providing patients with gadgets such as tablets and smart TVs, among other things, which would essentially provide them with information about how to take certain medications depending on their conditions or needs such as how to take a specific medication with food and how often they should do it. Through this, patients are able to also request for medicines to be delivered to their hospital rooms which would inherently decrease the time needed to visit pharmacies, ensuring near real-time aid.

Such technologies provide patients with information aimed to educate them about their specific conditions which would, as a result, increase patient confidence. This is particularly evident in GetWellNetwork’s “care pathways” through which they offer interactive and highly personalized patient education curriculums whereby patients can obtain information about their conditions and allow them to take distributed health surveys through which recommendations will be given based on the answers on whether or not they would need immediate medical attention. 

Addressing the ageing population

Addressing the issue of an ageing population is very important and IoMT will be instrumental in ensuring that the available resources are used with the utmost efficiency. In fact, a report by the United Nations suggests that the number of elderly people will double by 2050, amounting to 1.2 billion. Health spending will increase, meaning that it will be a huge burden for the healthcare industry to bare.

As Dr. Rami Sukhon, family medicine specialist at Al Zahra Hospital, echoed this sentiment. “Due to the rise in healthcare expenditure associated with the increase in life expectancy, the elderly are at a disadvantage as they are more likely to be subjected to larger healthcare expenses compared to younger patients as it is estimated that health expenditure may more than double between the ages of 70 and 90,” he said.

“Another problem for the elderly is the fact that, in some cases, they may not have someone supporting them during visits to the hospitals/clinics; thus, restricting their visits and reducing times where useful data can be collected,” he added.

A very interesting and highly innovative product which was launched earlier this year is the “e-skin” pajama for the elderly, created by Japanese startup Xenoma.

The startup’s new take on wearables is truly revolutionary in that it has sensors built into the clothing which basically analyze sleep conditions and health vitals and could even detect falling. The sensors are woven into the fabric itself in order to collect health data and detect any anomalies in the person’s health.

CarePredict, a US-based startup, also recently launched a wearable device which is worn on the person’s wrist, enabling their loved ones or caregivers to track the status of their lifestyle habits such as eating, sleeping and walking, with a built-in AI program that could predict a number of issues, one of which is depression. According to the startup’s CBO, Jerry Wilmink, “The challenge is right now that caregivers live about 3,000 miles away from seniors they care for, so they need eyeballs in that home.”

Patient health, data and the smart home

Collecting and analyzing data are very important to ensuring that constant improvements are being made to the solutions which are being developed for the wellness of the elderly.

Many innovative solutions are currently being launched, some of which include smart flooring to detect the movement of senior residents and ceiling sensors which can track heart rates and call ambulances in the event of an emergency and platforms.

“This is where the future is going - all clothing, objects and sensors we wear will be connected, generating data,” said Rachna Dhamija, co-founder and CEO of Ejenta.

The California-based startup recently launched a solution to aid remote healthcare. The system, which was inspired by a system previously launched by NASA to collect data from its astronauts, essentially collects large amounts of biometric data from a variety of IoT devices and monitors the conditions of patients over the age of 85 in order to inform their caregivers about their wellbeing.

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