The universal connectivity of everything in healthcare - “the internet of medical things” - is here
Remember the handheld scanner that the fictional character Dr. “Bones” McCoy used in the 1960s television series “Star Trek”? That fascinating futuristic device seemed to do just about everything. Fifty-some years later, in a stark display of life imitating art, that kind of technology exists now, and it’s transforming health care.
James MaultSpeaking at The Federal Pharmacy Forum at the 2016 APhA annual meeting, James Mault, MD, vice president and chief medical officer at Qualcomm Life, addressed the topic of digital technologies in a presentation titled “Connected therapy management: Taking medication therapy management into the digital world.”
“The impact of the internet on medical things will be the basis on which our healthcare system is able to reduce total cost of care by hundreds of billions of dollars and at the same time drive the safety and efficacy and improved outcomes like we’ve never dreamed,” said Mault.
The universal connectivity of everything in healthcare, in other words, “the internet of medical things,” is a reality, he said.
According to Mault, once you have the connectivity and the data flowing, the big breakthrough that’s currently happening is the ability to aggregate that data, look at it as it is streaming by, and then be able to do pattern recognition and clinical correlations.
According to industry experts, an estimated 25 to 50 billion connected devices are expected to be in use by 2020.
“It’s medications, therapy, smart patches, and devices. These things will be so woven into the fabric of literally everything we’re doing that it will become invisible to our concerns,” said Mault, adding that a small hand-held device that has a Bluetooth connection, wi-fi, Global Positioning System (GPS), and a 3D motion sensor that measures heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature are already a reality.
Who will use the technology?
Under the old healthcare model, practitioners were incentivized to do “crisis care,” said Mault. Now, health systems, doctors, nurses, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, are forced to do everything possible to keep people as healthy as possible and out of the hospital and clinic as long as possible.
“Now you aligning incentives - you’re rewarded for the fact that people don’t need to see you in the ER or clinic.” said Mault.
However, in order to keep people away from those facilities, you have to have some way of plugging in to what’s going on with those patients.
“You’re driving the entire delivery of care, so we’re going from a facility-based central model of care to a distributive model of care - almost in identical fashion to what has happened to every sector of our economy due to technology,” said Mault.
Doctors will start using remote monitoring technology in order to see what’s going on with the patient rather than waiting until the patient shows up in the ER or has to be hospitalized.
“It’s all about using technology to communicate and to capture subtle little pieces of information that’s invisible to the everyday lives of our patients,” said Mault. The technology, he asserted, is already here.
“It’s really a consequence of training and behavior change on the part of our medical, pharmacy, and nursing schools, so that care is delivered in a completely different way,” he said.
What will the hospital of the future look like? It will be a “telehealth command center” proclaimed Mault. A facility that will have the capabilities to monitor critically ill patients in seven different states, where they will be cared for by the most seasoned doctors, critical care intensivists, and nurses, remotely.
“We are not in pilot phase - it’s happening now, right before your eyes,” said Mault.