What Is IoMT (Internet of Medical Things)? What Is an IoMT Device?

David Ruddock
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The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is composed of the internet-connected devices used by healthcare providers to collect medical data not just from individual patients, but healthcare facilities, public spaces, and even mobile health systems like ambulances. Beyond that, IoMT includes the cloud infrastructure and applications that devices rely on to transmit, store, and report medical data over the internet. That’s the broad definition of IoMT. 

More commonly, IoMT refers to the internet-connected devices, such as glucose monitors, heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters, smart pills, RFID inventory management devices, and point of care kiosks.

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What are Examples of IoMT Devices?

Whether something constitutes an “IoMT device” is not merely about its designed purpose — it’s about how it’s used. While a blood glucose monitor is quite obviously an IoMT device, is an Apple Watch? Well, if that Apple Watch is sharing data with the wearer’s medical provider via a connected telehealth layer, yes! This is where lines can get a bit blurry. Here are some IoMT devices, some of which only meet that definition depending on a specific context.

  • Glucose monitor / insulin infusion pump: A Bluetooth-enabled continuous glucose monitor (CGM) like a Dexcom reports blood glucose levels in real-time to an application, often on a patient’s connected smartphone. An insulin infusion pump (“closed loop”) system can talk to this CGM to adjust the frequency and level of insulin given, as well as report all monitored data back to the provider.
  • Heart rate monitor: A heart rate monitor, whether a wearable or a dedicated chest HRM, can report a patient’s heart rate and rhythm and monitor for irregularities, such as after surgery or a coronary event.
  • Smart pill: In place of an invasive surgery or endoscopic procedure, a sensor or camera-equipped “smart pill” can be ingested by a patient to report various data back to a provider — whether a series of still images or the detection of chemical markers inside a patient’s digestive tract.
  • Smart pacemaker: An implanted pacemaker can communicate using Bluetooth and report diagnostic data via a connected smartphone, reducing the need for in-person checkups.
  • Smart scale: An internet-connected scale can monitor weight or body conductivity fluctuations. Some scales have even started exploring measuring nerve conduction for early detection of neuropathy (for example, in diabetic patients).
  • Smart CPAP: A Bluetooth-enabled CPAP can capture breathing and other diagnostic data to detect the frequency and severity of sleep apnea in a patient.
  • Bluetooth pulse oximeter or blood pressure cuff: Either on-demand or continuously worn, these devices report a patient’s blood oxygen level or blood pressure.
  • Smartwatch: When connected to a healthcare provider, a smartwatch can provide troves of health data about a patient, including heart rate, blood oxygen, body temperature, physical activity level, sleep patterns, cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max), respiration rate, environmental noise exposure, balance and gate, and more.
  • Health check-in kiosk: Using an iPad or tablet check-in point, patients can self-report information about physical and mental health to a provider upon arrival at a facility, saving providers time and avoiding human error in the collection process.
  • Temperature monitoring station: A dedicated temperature monitoring station can provide a facility data on potentially sick patients entering the building and track trends over time, potentially informing response to an infectious disease event (such as a COVID or influenza outbreak).
  • Personal emergency response system: A patient can signal that they require emergency medical attention remotely, automatically contacting emergency first responders and the patient’s doctor.
  • Smart treadmill or bicycle: While their primary use is exercise, medical staff can use smart fitness equipment to track a patient’s fitness level and heart function under controlled conditions. For example, after recovery from surgery or as part of an ongoing physical therapy program.
  • Medical inventory and device management: Using RFID or NFC tags (or even Bluetooth location services), a medical facility can track quantities of supplies, the location of critical medical equipment (e.g., defibrillators, IV infusion systems), and confirm the identity of drugs given to patients before they’re administered (and digitally report that administration).

The above devices are only a small subset of the larger IoMT ecosystem, and new devices and use cases are emerging constantly. Many of the above systems fall into the “RPM” category — remote patient monitoring, designed to report data collected from a patient back to a healthcare provider. 

The IoMT space is evolving rapidly, and many traditionally non-connected medical devices are now coming online. Remember: IoMT is defined by two crucial components: Internet connectivity (often via an intermediary device) and a medical use in the patient-provider relationship. This means that a device doesn’t need to be “designed” for IoMT to necessarily be used as an IoMT device. Manufacturers can even update some devices via software to enable an IoMT use case without changing the hardware at all.

How Is IoMT Different From Telehealth or Telemedicine?

We established the working definition of IoMT above — the “things” are generally the physical devices patients and healthcare providers interact with (health wearables, remote patient monitoring, kiosks, etc). Put another way: IoMT invokes a patient or provider’s direct relationship with a device that collects medical information.

Telehealth, by comparison, is a much broader term (and for our purposes, totally interchangeable with telemedicine). An IoMT device is merely one part of a telehealth system — telehealth encompasses the larger provider-patient relationship (for example, remote video appointments), the diagnostic process (which can include the use of IoMT monitoring devices), and treatment planning (using data gathered from IoMT devices). Such a system involves a great many layers and interconnected systems coming together. From the perspective of the provider and patient, this integration often takes the form of a telehealth portal. This could be an app or website where patients and providers can view their medical history, schedule and conduct remote visits, start a treatment plan (i.e., give a prescription or referral), and check the status of remote care monitoring systems.

To simplify the distinction between IoMT and telehealth: IoMT is how you measure and collect medically relevant information, i.e., by using physical devices connected to the internet using cloud infrastructure. Telehealth is the digital layer that allows the patient or provider to actually do something with that information, like schedule an appointment, prescribe medication, or give a diagnosis.

How Is IoMT Different From IoT?

The Internet of Medical Things is a category of the larger Internet of Things. Typically, IoT refers to the broadest possible range of consumer-facing products that use connectivity to enable features, reporting, and enhanced services. That probably doesn’t mean much without context, so here are some examples of IoT devices.

  • Smart light bulbs
  • Smart thermostats
  • Smart door sensors
  • Smart speakers
  • Fitness trackers
  • Smart displays
  • Smart exercise equipment
  • Smart robots (vacuums, lawnmowers, toys)
  • Smart garage door openers
  • Smart security cameras
  • Smart doorbells
  • Smart toothbrushes (yep, really)
  • Smart ovens / cookers

There’s also the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which focuses on connected devices in the commercial, industrial, and agricultural contexts. IoMT, as we established, requires an IoT device to be used in a medical context, typically meaning in the patient-provider relationship, whether directly or indirectly.

How Do IoMT Devices Connect to the Internet? Bluetooth? Wi-Fi? Cellular?

The answer is “yes.” While many IoMT devices use Bluetooth to “connect to the internet,” they also use Wi-Fi and cellular for this purpose. Architecturally, this is the advantage of an “Internet of Things” style approach to connected devices. It does not particularly matter how a device connects to digital infrastructure, only that it can do so in a way that utilizes extremely common and well-documented cloud messaging protocols (APIs, like REST).

In fact, most Bluetooth IoMT devices don’t connect to the internet at all. That sounds incredibly counterintuitive, but most IoMT devices only connect to an intermediary device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or PC. That intermediary device takes the raw data from the IoMT device and then connects to a cloud service on the internet, transporting the data in a (hopefully!) secure fashion.

Some IoT devices do, however, connect directly to the internet. Standalone use cases often use cellular devices — without any secondary equipment necessary to connect to the cloud — and tend to use more complex and expensive internal electronics (usually, a full application processor with an operating system) to support that mission. Similarly, Wi-Fi connected IoMT systems like medical check-in kiosks are also directly connected to the internet in most cases.

Are IoMT Devices Secure? Do They Comply with Medical Information Laws Like HIPAA?

This is a question that only a healthcare provider working with an IoMT device maker — in concert with medical IT security and data compliance experts — can answer in the absolute. The American FDA has published guidelines on how to go about this process. The reality today is that many IoMT devices are not designed with strict medical regulatory guidelines in mind, because many are consumer-grade products meant only for personal use. However, this hasn’t stopped their proliferation in the medical context, which raises legitimate questions about information security and legal compliance.

If an IoMT device is designed explicitly for healthcare providers to own and then distribute (or provide access) to patients, it is much more likely that the device will be designed with medical IT and regulatory compliance in mind. But this is why it’s important to work with a reputable, established partner who understands the security and regulatory landscape surrounding medical information and systems. Given that patient data may be sent and stored across multiple internet-connected layers when using an IoMT device, the complexity of ensuring compliance can quickly escalate.

In general, while the security of the IoMT device itself is important, it’s often the application and cloud layers that demand the greatest scrutiny. “Who, what, when, where, and how” are critically important questions to ask whenever medical data is being transmitted.

If You Need to Manage IoMT Devices, Esper Has Your Back

Whether you have 100 or 10,000 (or more!) IoMT devices, Esper has the robust IoT device management platform to help you remotely manage, control, troubleshoot, and update them. Book a demo today so we can show you what you're missing.

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David Ruddock
David Ruddock

David's tech experience runs deep. His tech agnostic approach and general love for technology fueled the 14 years he spent as a technology journalist, where David worked with major brands like Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Verizon, and Amazon, reviewed hundreds of products, and broke dozens of exclusive stories. Now he lends that same passion and expertise to Esper's marketing team.

David Ruddock
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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