Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The internet of medical things (IoMT), which encompasses all the connected devices and software applications that anchor the global healthcare sector’s information technology infrastructure, is expanding at a staggering pace. Fortune Business Insights suggests that the global IoMT market will reach more than $187 billion in 2028, up from nearly $31 billion in 2021.
This rapid expansion is a product of both circumstance and necessity. As in most other industries, recent events have dramatically accelerated digital transformation in healthcare. Given the physical distance between caregivers and patients, the remote sensors, telehealth platforms, health monitoring applications and various other technologies that were once innovative suddenly became essential. Now, this web of connected nodes generates much of the world’s data, and the share is likely to expand from here.
Of course, the IoMT was growing even before the pandemic, as healthcare organizations have long searched for ways to leverage data to improve economic viability and patient outcomes. In many cases, they’ve succeeded. Connected devices and applications have allowed providers to make clinical workflows more efficient and provide more personalized care to patients. In the process, they’ve slowly chipped away at barriers that have plagued the industry for decades.
Healthcare’s ‘Triple A’ Problem
In general, technological innovation in healthcare has lagged most other industries due to three key obstacles: accessibility, affordability and accuracy. Until relatively recently, providers have relied mostly on a mixture of standalone devices that collect and store data independently, making it virtually impossible to create comprehensive health profiles for individual patients. Yet that’s exactly what providers need to provide the personalized care that could lead to more effective treatments and better long-term patient outcomes. Thanks to the proliferation of connected sensors, edge computing and other technologies, consolidating patient information is no longer an insurmountable task — and truly personalized care is no longer a pipe dream.
As technology improves, the economics of technology investments are becoming more viable as well. Processes that used to require an entire lab, outfitted with expensive equipment and multidisciplinary teams of highly paid experts, are now taking place on portable devices managed with single software platforms. That connectivity is opening a world of possibilities, many of which are only now beginning to emerge.
Not surprisingly, the immense promise of the IoMT is increasingly attracting the attention of entrepreneurs. For those hoping to capture a piece of the burgeoning IoMT market, here are three tips to keep in mind:
1. Look for clinical applications.
Companies such as Fitbit, Apple and many others have developed products that use healthcare data to empower consumers. Applications that monitor physical activity, sleep, diet and countless other factors that contribute to an individual’s overall health and wellness have allowed consumers to better understand how their lifestyle choices impact their physical and mental states. In the process, they’ve accelerated the sector’s shift in focus from treatment to prevention.
Even though the market for consumer applications is relatively saturated, clinicians remain underserved by comparison. Yes, there’s a growing ecosystem of tools that support workflow management, but there’s an enormous need for solutions that leverage the IoMT to improve disease diagnosis and treatment. As the average age of the global population continues to increase, the ratio of patients to caregivers will climb as well. Entrepreneurs who can equip providers with technologies that enable more timely, accurate diagnoses can help alleviate the growing burden on worldwide healthcare systems — and perhaps stake out a portion of a fast-growing market as well.
2. Make a platform play.
The IoMT is an amalgamation of disparate technologies that serve countless different functions. As vital as some of these are to providers, patients and the sector at large, their value is largely dependent on the underlying platforms that connect them.
A standalone medical device that leverages the most advanced technology isn’t worth much if it can’t integrate with the other technologies stakeholders are already using. Rather than developing a single device that solves one problem for providers or patients, entrepreneurs can deliver exponentially more value by developing platforms that connect multiple devices. That’s not to say there’s no demand for standalone sensors or applications, but by creating an ecosystem that can evolve with customer needs, entrepreneurs can achieve a broader impact and set a foundation for sustainable growth and greater long-term financial returns.
3. Prioritize security during development.
Major cloud providers have helped to fuel the growth of the IoMT by making it easier for entrepreneurs to develop solutions that are compliant with the various regulatory standards that govern the sector. Microsoft Azure, a platform as a service (PaaS), offers pre-built blueprints (including a HIPAA high-trust compliant blueprint) that guide developers through the steps to host sensitive data securely in the cloud. Google Cloud and Amazon AWS, both of which are delivered via an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model, also provide checklists for building a secure, compliant cloud infrastructure, though it’s up to developers to follow them.
Healthcare data has always been subject to stringent regulatory oversight, and entrepreneurs in the space will increasingly have to account for a growing patchwork of data privacy laws in addition to established industry standards. That’s largely a good thing. Vulnerabilities in IoMT solutions could result in not only the loss of highly sensitive data (which is valuable to hackers), but also the loss of life. By prioritizing security and privacy throughout all stages of technology development, entrepreneurs can avoid the wrath of regulators and the potentially dire consequences associated with compromised healthcare data.
As healthcare mitigates the problems of accessibility, affordability and accuracy, opportunities for technology in the sector will grow by leaps and bounds, and IoMT will only become more pervasive. With the multiplication of individualized data, personalized, data-driven healthcare is closer than ever before.