A connected medical device is a health-related device that can send and receive data using wireless connections such as WiFi and Bluetooth. Collectively, these devices make up the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). They come in many forms, including:
- Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, glucose monitoring systems, and ECG monitors.
- Automated dispensation devices such as smart pill dispensers, syringes, and inhalers.
- Implantable devices such as pacemakers.
- In-home equipment such as connected scales and blood pressure cuffs.
- Hospital equipment such as radiography machines, smart beds, and heart monitors.
The data that connected medical devices collect is usually uploaded to a cloud-based connected medical device platform where it can be analyzed, and stored for future reference. These platforms allow healthcare providers to easily review patients' health information from a secure portal whenever it is needed. Using connected medical devices physicians can make data-driven decisions, adjust patient treatment for better outcomes.
Types of Connections
Connected devices in healthcare use several different types of connections to establish IoMT connectivity. Some common options include:
Choosing the best type of connection for each device requires engineers to consider a balance between range, cost, usability, and power consumption.
As connected IoMT devices become increasingly integrated into patients' daily lives, dependable wireless connections have become a necessity. Both WiFi and Bluetooth connections are currently in use within billions of medical devices worldwide.
Connected Medical Device Applications
Connected medical devices may be used for a variety of applications, including:
- Remote patient monitoring. Patients with chronic conditions must carefully monitor their health over time. With connected healthcare devices, they can automatically gather vital health data on a daily basis using wearable and in-home devices, then transmit this data back to their healthcare provider for analysis.
- Improved patient adherence and patient engagement. New innovations in connected medical devices technology such as digital medicine and fitness trackers have made it possible for healthcare providers to observe how closely patients are really following their treatment plans. Besides patients are more willing to use the devices as they feel they are part of the medical journey.
- Enhanced in-hospital care. Hospitals have limited resources to care for an ever-growing number of patients. Connected devices can help nurses and physicians keep a close eye on their patients at all times, ensuring that relapses and health crises never go unnoticed.
- Real-world research data collection. Medical research has been traditionally confined to clinical settings, but this environment does not always produce the same results as real-world conditions. Medical devices connected to the internet offer an easy way to collect data from patients and research subjects as they go about their daily lives.
- Compliance with post-market regulations. Adding connectivity to medical devices enables manufacturers to follow up and comply with PMCF - post-market clinical follow-up regulations.
Connected Medical Device Challenges
Connected healthcare devices also come with a unique set of challenges, including:
- Safety. Whether directly or indirectly, all connected medical devices have an impact on patients' health. They are currently held to extremely strict standards regarding security and efficacy by many laws and regulations around the world, including the FDA and the EU MDR. If the device is used in a life-critical application, it must also be able to maintain a strong connection at all times.
- Security. Health data is a protected class of information in many countries, and each connected device offers hackers a potential access point from which to infiltrate a larger network. As a result, connected medical device security standards are very demanding, often acting as a barrier to adoption among healthcare providers.
- Data accuracy. Healthcare providers using connected medical devices in their practice must offer adequate training and support for users of all skill levels to avoid misuse and user errors.
The Future of Medicine
While they are only just beginning to gain prominence, connected devices are projected to become more common in healthcare as the years go on. Expect to see them in the hands of many more patients as this technology continues to evolve and enables patients to capture an even wider range of health data.