Wednesday, 17 March 2021

How Is the IoMT Helping During the Pandemic?

Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most significant health crises in human history. As this virus outbreak continues to spread, the world’s hospital systems face an unprecedented challenge in caring for all the victims. Technology like the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has helped health care systems withstand this pressure.


A guest post by Emily Newton


The IoMT refers to connected technologies within the medical field, from wearables to location sensors to connected MRI machines. Despite being a relatively new phenomenon, these devices have become critical resources for many hospitals. COVID-19 brought new urgency to this trend, with 92% of health care organizations increasing their IoMT adoption.

 

Here’s how these technologies have helped during the pandemic.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine is perhaps the most noteworthy application of the IoMT, especially amid the pandemic. Devices like health wearables have given patients remote access to health care organizations and vice versa. This connectivity enables people to seek medical attention or advice without having to go to a crowded hospital.

 

In March 2020, telehealth visits increased by 154% over the year prior. Many people don’t want to sit in a crowded waiting room where they could be exposed to a highly contagious virus. Consequently, telemedicine services provided them with the means to avoid doing so.

 

Patients aren’t the only people who have benefited from telehealth devices, either. Being able to see patients remotely instead of traveling from room to room saves doctors time. Pre-screening services in these apps can also streamline diagnoses, further reducing the time doctors spend on each patient.

Remote Patient Monitoring

 As COVID-19 keeps spreading, hospitals have to help more patients with their limited resources and staff. As of February 2021, 18% of U.S. hospitals have COVID-19 patients taking up at least 20% of their available beds. IoMT devices have helped medical staff keep track of all of these patients.

 

Connected sensors made from specialized materials make information like heart rate and respiration remotely accessible. Doctors and nurses can then check on patients’ vitals without having to be in the same room. These systems will also alert staff if any changes occur that require immediate medical attention.

 

In the face of overcrowding, hospital staff may not have the time to visit every patient in-person regularly. The traditional approach to making rounds also falls short when a patient’s condition could become severe without a moment’s notice. Remote monitoring systems remove these inefficiencies, saving time and lives.

Outbreak Tracking

 COVID-19 affects different areas to varying degrees, so tracking outbreaks is crucial to an effective response.

 

This was especially critical in the early days of the pandemic, when officials didn’t yet have a firm grasp on how the virus spread. Connected devices provided the data that health care organizations and governments required to follow and even predict these outbreaks.

 

Counties like Taiwan, South Korea, and Germany all took an IoT-based approach to tracking outbreaks. Using smartwatch apps and phone services, these nations could monitor outbreak trends, informing more effective responses. These same networks also served to alert people if they had potentially come into contact with someone with COVID-19.

 

Information from these IoT networks helped authorities understand what kinds of situations lend themselves to COVID-19 spreading. This data can now help algorithms predict future outbreaks, fueling faster responses.

Hospital Resource Tracing

 Amid the chaos of the pandemic, keeping track of hospital equipment isn’t always straightforward. Tools can get misplaced and machines move around, and when staff must spend time finding them, it can lead to costly delays. IoMT connectivity in these resources provides the visibility hospitals need.

 

A growing number of hospitals use RFID tags to track their equipment. These wireless location sensors give health care workers real-time data about where everything is. With access to this information, staff members don’t have to spend nearly as much time finding the tools they need.

 

By May 2020, 87% of U.S. nurses reported having to reuse single-use masks due to PPE shortages. IoT devices throughout the PPE supply chain help alleviate this issue by providing real-time updates about where shipments are. Hospitals could then manage their current resources more effectively, having a more accurate picture of when more would arrive.

Vaccine Transport

 Now that vaccines have started rolling out, IoMT devices are playing another crucial role. Given the severity of the pandemic, these vaccines are vital resources, so authorities need to monitor them closely. IoT sensors in vaccine shipments provide real-time location data so hospitals and governments can see where they are at all times.

 

The COVID-19 vaccines have unique storage concerns, too. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require extreme cold storage at -4 and -94 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. IoT temperature sensors can help health care organizations ensure they remain at these low temperatures throughout their supply chain movements.

 

Cold chain transportation has always been an issue, with 20% of temperature-sensitive biopharmaceutical products getting damaged in transport. With better IoT sensors, drivers can see if there’s an issue with refrigeration systems so they can take a new route and deliver vaccines faster. Some IoT devices could even adjust temperatures automatically based on their readings.

Vaccine Scheduling

 The IoMT continues to be helpful in vaccine distribution after delivery. Since these doses have such a short shelf life, health care organizations need to administer them quickly. While there’s plenty of demand for the vaccines, it can be difficult to schedule everyone amid the confusion with traditional systems.

 

Telehealth provides a more straightforward and manageable way to handle vaccine scheduling. Hospitals and other authorities can alert patients through these platforms if they’re eligible for vaccination, then patients can use them to schedule an appointment. Hosting all of these functions on the same system helps keep track of everything.

 

These same devices can also remind patients of their upcoming appointments. Since both of the available vaccines require two doses to work, these reminders can save lives.

Without the IoMT, the Pandemic Would Have Been Worse

 No one would claim that the pandemic has been easy, but it could have been a lot worse. Technology like the IoMT has made global health care responses far more efficient and effective than they have been in the past. The IoMT didn’t cure the world of COVID-19, but it helped it survive the fight.

 

Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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