How to Deliver the Internet of Medical Things™ to Millions

01 September 2015

The theme at this year’s #QualcommConnect is the Internet of Medical Things™, and unsurprisingly many of the conversations taking place at the conference are centered on how the tech industry can help make connected health services and devices frictionless and accessible to the masses. Dr. James Mault, VP and Chief Medical Officer for Qualcomm Life, discussed that one of the big challenges facing the industry right now is figuring out how to scale these devices. “When we talk about scale, we’re talking about millions of patients interacting with the health care system using technology on a routine basis.”

What’s preventing the health care industry from adopting the IoMT on a massive scale? Dr. Mault points out that one of the biggest obstacles getting in the way isn’t technology, but rather the fee-for-service systems used by the vast majority of health providers, which is based on the number of visits and length of time. The more times you visit the hospital, the more money that hospital makes.

Slowly, the industry is shifting towards a values-based system, in which clinicians, pharmaceutical companies and other aspects of the industry are rewarded for patient outcomes: fewer hospital visits and readmissions, higher patient adherence and compliance with medications, lower rates of chronic disease and many more. “By 2019, 90 percent of the industry’s payment programs will be value-based in one way or another,” Dr. Mault said. Most health care companies are aware of this, and recognize that they have no choice but to go digital or die.

Dr. Mault closed his discussion by highlighting a few accelerators that will drive higher adoption of the Internet of Medical Things in the coming years. First, the tech industry needs to start thinking less about the technology (which exists) and a lot more about how we can help providers adopt and use that tech. If the tech isn’t effortless for the patient, it won’t be used. Second, there needs to be a viable fabric for the IoMT from hospital to home and everywhere in-between. Predictive, intelligent care needs to be everywhere.

The third accelerator is medical-grade apps and devices. In order to scale, everything needs to be medical-grade. It must be secure, as clinicians will need to make life-and-death decisions based on the data collected and shared. Doctors have to trust the information coming in, and must trust the systems used to deliver that data.

Also required is a change in provider behavior. For centuries, doctors have been taught that the only way to help the patient is to see them face-to-face. In fact, “until January 2015 it was a felony for a physician to bill medical care without seeing the patient,” Dr. Mault said. This is slowly changing with value-based care solutions which don’t require face-to-face visits but still provide management of the patient’s chronic diseases.

The final accelerator, according to Dr. Mault, is clinical workflow and outcomes data. Certainly, this tech isn’t going to do any good if doctors and nurses can’t figure out how to make it fit into what they need to do on a regular basis. Old habits are difficult to change; “right now you’re hearing a lot of kicking and screaming,” Mault said.

This seems like a long way away, and nobody seems to agree on exactly how long it will take to make technology scalable to millions of patients. But one thing is clear: it’s not only possible, it’s inevitable. These accelerators should be viewed as opportunities for tech companies to take advantage of, rather than barriers that get in the way.

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