The Internet of Medical Things and Global Health

(Third in a series of four blogs, following How the Internet of Things Improves Sustainable Development Goals and Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning and the Internet of Things.)

Scientist Saurabh Nautiyal created a portable Wi-Fi medical device embedded with advanced digital sensors that can measure a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, hemoglobin level, and body temperature and store it on the cloud for a medical provider to access. Even more impressive, her device can work from a remote, poor area with vulnerable populations.

She’s part of the IoT-medical industry, commonly referred to as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) — a bundle of medical devices and applications connected to healthcare information technology systems. Just like the IoT, the IoMT uses networking and connectivity technologies to transmit and process data.

Technological innovation continues to transform the global healthcare industry as digitized information becomes easier to access for both patients and physicians. As a result, technology decreases unnecessary hospital trips, transfers medical data rapidly, and provides local telehealth services, alleviating pressure on overburdened healthcare systems.

In low-to middle-income countries, global health challenges include healthcare delivery to conflict and crisis areas, access to affordable, quality treatment and medicine, and preparation for future epidemics while preventing pandemics. While the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated healthcare inequities in poor countries, IoMT provides innovative solutions to these challenges across the global health sector.

The Internet of Medical Things

Examples of IoMT medical devices include wearables, such as wristbands, that monitor and generate data rapidly for patients to receive health care either in person or through telehealth support. These devices are popular in the consumer marketplace among those who wear watches that track personal health, sleep, and fitness goals. But this technology can expand beyond individuals to communities, clinics, transportation, hospitals, and logistical support to provide expert medical care that is immediate, accurate, and efficient for patients, physicians, and all systems involved.

Some examples of innovative IoMT health products include:

  • Sensors in pharmaceutical, medical, and surgical shipments that track and monitor temperature, shock, and humidity to ensure quality arrival and delivery
  • Drones that rapidly deliver medical supplies to a crisis situation based on geothermal sensor technology
  • Ambulances and other mobile services that are able to track and sense a passenger’s health status during transit and subsequently relay data to awaiting emergency rooms
  • Hospital or clinic kiosks with computers that allow patients to interact and receive products or services from care providers

From global health supply chains to implementation, IoMT devices provide expert healthcare to remote locations in developing countries, utilizing sensors and connectivity technology.

Expanding the Technology

In rural locations, medical records and prescriptions are documented in a manual paper record system that can result in administrative errors. But with IoMT devices, records are transferred to a digital system that is monitored by sensors connected to the device in a portable system — such as the device created by Saurabh Nautiyal, a researcher with the ACS Division Centre for Development of Advanced Computing. Her innovation illustrates how IoMT functions to collect and process data, provide health solutions based on aggregation, and delivers better, rapid healthcare to remote areas.

The IoMT also enhances monitoring and evaluation for global health outcomes. For example, IoMT technology can provide accurate, rapid data on inoculation rates in a given population, tracking a statistic that previously may have been harder to obtain. Better, clearer data ultimately leads to better programming, approaches, and implementation to how to distribute medical supplies and care in the future.

The IoMT and the Sustainable Development Goals

The IoT has a critical role in achieving the United Nation’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 3, Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages, through better health outcomes and healthcare delivery, relieving pressure on health systems, and decreasing health care costs for governments and patients. To advance these life-saving, interventions, both the public and private sector must continue to invest in technology and capacity training that provides opportunities for product development, research and development, and successful deployment of IoMT devices in areas all over the world, especially the most remote locations.

Here at WBD, our private sector engagement team can facilitate partnerships between donor organizations and tech companies to create new markets, eliminate constraints, and provide life saving devices that reinvent how healthcare operates in the global development sector. We work with our partners to use advanced technologies, including IoT, to help save lives, improve livelihoods, and create prosperous communities in the decades ahead. The evolution of IoT and IoMT demonstrates the potential for innovation, synergy, and strategic implementation to ensure the best healthcare for all, no matter where they live.

Author: Mia Caglieris, Associate at WBD, is a strategy and an international development professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support award with the United States Agency for International Development.