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Setting the Benchmark

Is the medical IoT revolution (finally) going to start?

by Tamara Boyd / March 8, 2019

So far the hype has exceeded reality in medical IoT. Is it finally time for that to end?

A lot of really smart people have made a lot of really big predictions when it comes to medical IoT. Some have theorized that IoT medical devices sending data directly to electronic medical record systems will drastically reduce the need for clinic visits to monitor chronic conditions, reducing primary care costs. Others have hoped for a future where more seniors can stay in their homes rather than relocate to an assisted living facility thanks to remote medical IoT monitoring.

No one doubts the value of the data that could be collected with medical IoT, but the pace of adoption has been more incremental than revolutionary. All of the necessary technologies exist, so why is this the case?

Data Privacy Challenges

HIPAA patient privacy regulations are strict, and consumers have higher expectations for the security of their medical data than they do for, say, the status of their vacuum cleaner or other home IoT devices. Meeting the requirements of data security during transmission, while stored in intermediate locations, such as a user’s smartphone, and once it reaches the cloud, requires significant expertise and strong partnerships through the IoT ecosystem. HIPAA-compliant cloud computing is becoming more common, and with the right know how, companies are beginning to overcome data privacy challenges.

Engineering for FDA Approval

Several companies have publically announced they are working on a FDA-approved medical IoT device only to later decide to release the device for consumer use only. Developing a device to meet FDA requirements is challenging and demands a high level of engineering knowledge. The  precision required to reliably replicate results for use in diagnosis is difficult to achieve. Companies found that there was a consumer market willing to pay for an imperfect version, and the extra effort to obtain FDA approval may not have been financially sound. This leads us to the next point…

Lack of Financial Incentives

Medicare is in the process of implementing revised payment rules for telemedicine and remote monitoring. This should lead the way for other large insurers to do the same, as up until this point, healthcare providers did not have a way to get paid for this type of service . Since healthcare providers are traditionally paid based on patient encounters, technology that can reduce the need for such encounters is disincentivized. This, in turn, reduced the incentive for technology providers to make the effort to obtain FDA approvals as the market was small. Vertically integrated systems are accelerating their speed of adoption of IoT technology as their business model allows them to reap the benefits, and outcome based medicine holds promise for incentivizing medical IoT with other insurers by paying a flat rate for an outcome, whether that outcome was achieved in-person or using IoT technology.

Ready to Join the Revolution?

Now, with financial incentives improving, medical IoT is set to grow exponentially. The engineering challenges, however, remain the same. Traditional medical device companies face the challenges of connectivity and the data privacy complexities of IoT, and IoT technology companies struggle to get a product through the FDA clearance process. An integrated strategy addressing these challenges is the best way to take advantage of this industry-changing opportunity.

Want to talk to Tamara and Benchmark’s other medical IoT engineers about your medical IoT challenges? Contact us at IoT@bench.com to start a conversation!

Tags: IoT

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Tamara Boyd

Tamara Boyd

Tamara Boyd is the Director of Design Engineering for Benchmark’s Minnesota division.

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