Internet of Medical Things: improving outcomes at the edge
 

Internet of Medical Things: improving outcomes at the edge

Healthcare providers were creating networks of Things long before there was an Internet of Things. People even talk about the Internet of Medical Things, or IoMT. But in 2020, the steady flow of automation and digital care solutions that had been driving healthcare transformation became a flood. Virtual care made the headline news, while devices and sensors have also played a critical role in managing the impact of the pandemic. Now, the big question is: what do we do with all that data? In this article, we explore some solutions for creating and securing your own IoMT at scale.

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These days, a standard hospital room may have dozens of connected Things, from ventilators to wearable technology, monitors and even devices such as smart stethoscopes and security cameras.

The medical environment has been growing increasingly connected over the last several years, as improvements in technology have allowed a wide range of data to be collected across key indicators for health.

Outside of hospitals, devices such as fitness trackers or clinical grade wearables can measure heart-rate, blood pressure, sleep quality and so on. There are even smart pills, which are activated when swallowed, and communicate with an app that’s visible to patients and doctors, which is useful in treating Alzheimer’s for example.

This trend towards connected healthcare has been hugely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove a surge in telemedicine and even more care being delivered out of hospital.

As each of these devices collects and transmits data, the IoMT is formed, creating a connected infrastructure of health systems and services that is ripe for data analysis, improved healthcare outcomes, and which is also very appealing to hackers.

In May of 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that targeted attacks on healthcare would become more likely, as malicious actors would seek to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.

IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report (2020) found that healthcare companies incur the highest breach cost of any industry with an average of $7.13 million cost per incidence. That’s a 10% increase over the 2019 study.

IoMT is often formed from a patchwork of legacy and modern devices, and the lack of interoperability and standardised security increases the potential for security blindspots. The security risk is heightened even further as more devices connect remotely.

And as the IoMT grows in size, it becomes even more vulnerable to attack, with each endpoint representing a potential gateway for hackers to access private medical networks.

It’s this high value data and broad opportunity that has led Cybersecurity Ventures to predict that in 2021, the healthcare industry will suffer two to three times more cyberattacks than the average for other industries .

However, the benefits of IoMT are also growing. The more data that is collected, the more valuable insight can be extracted by AI. This can improve individual patient outcomes in terms of diagnoses, but also improve wider medical knowledge and enable a shift towards predictive medical care instead of reactive.

Also, more connected devices can improve the efficiency of medical organisations, in terms of better asset tracking. Expensive medical equipment is less likely to be under-utilised or lost when it is remotely monitored using a smart management platform.

Clearly, the benefits outweigh the risk, as the IoMT is continuing to grow, with a predicted compound annual growth rate of 38.67% between 2019 and 2026 . Technology is rushing to improve efficiency and fill the gaps that have been created by COVID-19, alongside a trend of digitising healthcare records.

So how can these massive datasets be used to their best potential, and protected against malware, ransomware and other forms of cyberthreat? Is there a smarter way to deploy and manage IoMT at scale?

The Lenovo Health portfolio of solutions helps to provide hardware, software and services that simplify healthcare transformation in 160+ countries around the world.

An integrated IoMT solution must process data efficiently and produce actionable insights, while storing data securely and in compliance with regulations.

Devices such as the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n Nano provide powerful, local computing resource at the edge, which helps to collect and process the complex data-sets produced by an IoMT ecosystem.

Investing in edge computing solutions such as these is an effective way of providing quick data analysis, with lower latency when compared to working in the cloud.

These devices contain the power of a full-sized desktop PC, but are the size of a small notebook (0.35L volume). They’re MIL-SPEC tested to withstand knocks, bumps and all sorts of hazards, and can be easily stored in a crowded healthcare environment.

Powerful edge computing devices such as these are energy-efficient – helping to lower operating costs – and easy to deploy with Lenovo configuration services and simple USB-C plug and play functionality.

Most importantly of all, Lenovo ThinkCentre Nano devices are protected by the comprehensive Lenovo ThinkShield security solution, which combines secure build and supply-chain with highly effective endpoint detection and response software.

As the IoMT expands in scope and application, healthcare transformation will develop at speed, with continuing improvement in outcomes. However, interoperability is a crucial factor and it is vitally important to consider how these devices and data will be efficiently managed and protected at scale.

Lenovo Health can provide the devices, software and services required to extract maximum value and efficiency from IoMT. For more information about creating a flexible, secure and scalable healthcare ecosystem, take a look at the Lenovo Health webpage.