How entrepreneurs can benefit from the digital health revolution

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The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), encompassing all of the connected devices and software applications that underpin the information technology infrastructure of the global healthcare sector, is expanding at breakneck speed. Fortune Business Insights projects 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. With the physical distance between caregivers and patients, the once innovative remote sensors, telemedicine platforms, health monitoring applications, and various other technologies have suddenly become essential. Now this web of connected nodes generates much of the world’s data, and the proportion is likely to increase from here.

See also: Data and analytics in healthcare: addressing 21st century challenges to advance public health

Of course, IoMT was already growing before the pandemic, as healthcare organizations have long sought ways to use data to improve economics and patient outcomes. In many cases they have succeeded. Connected devices and applications have enabled providers to streamline clinical workflows and provide patients with more personalized care. In doing so, they have slowly broken down barriers that have plagued the industry for decades.

The “Triple A” problem of healthcare

In general, technological innovation in healthcare lags behind most other industries due to three key barriers: accessibility, affordability, and accuracy. Until relatively recently, providers have mostly relied on a mix of standalone devices that collect and store data independently, making it virtually impossible to create comprehensive health profiles for individual patients. Yet this is exactly what providers need to deliver personalized care that could lead to more effective treatments and better long-term patient outcomes. With the proliferation of connected sensors, edge computing, and other technologies, consolidating patient data is no longer an insurmountable task—and truly personalized care is no longer a pipe dream.

As technology improves, the economics of technology investments become more profitable. Processes that once required an entire lab outfitted with expensive equipment and multidisciplinary teams of highly paid experts now take place on portable devices managed with single software platforms. This connectivity opens up a world of possibilities, many of which are only now beginning to emerge.

See also: The fog of war in patient care and what is being done to lift it

Not surprisingly, the immense potential of the IoMT is increasingly attracting the attention of entrepreneurs. For those hoping to grab a piece of the burgeoning IoMT market, here are three tips to keep in mind:

1. Look for clinical applications.

Companies like Fitbit, Apple and many others have developed products that use health data to empower consumers. Applications that monitor physical activity, sleep, diet and myriad other factors that contribute to a person’s overall health and well-being have allowed consumers to better understand how their lifestyle affects their physical and mental state. In doing so, they have accelerated the sector’s shift in focus from treatment to prevention.

Although the market for consumer applications is relatively saturated, clinicians remain underserved by comparison. Yes, there is a growing ecosystem of tools that support workflow management, but there is a tremendous need for solutions that leverage the IoMT to improve disease diagnosis and treatment. As the average age of the world population continues to rise, the ratio of patients to caregivers will also increase. Entrepreneurs who can empower providers with technologies that enable more timely and accurate diagnoses can help ease the growing strain on the world’s healthcare systems — and perhaps also carve out a piece of a fast-growing market.

2. Make a platform game.

The IoMT is a fusion of disparate technologies that serve myriad different functions. As important as some of these are to providers, patients and the wider sector, their value largely depends on the underlying platforms that connect them.

A standalone medical device that uses the most advanced technology isn’t worth much if it doesn’t integrate with the other technologies that stakeholders are already using. Rather than building a single device that solves a problem for providers or patients, entrepreneurs can deliver exponentially more value by building platforms that connect multiple devices. That’s not to say there isn’t demand for standalone sensors or applications, but by creating an ecosystem that can evolve with customer needs, entrepreneurs can have a broader impact and lay a foundation for sustained growth and greater long-term financial returns.

See also: The future of healthcare is in the cloud

3. Prioritize security during development.

Major cloud providers have helped fuel the growth of IoMT by making it easier for entrepreneurs to build solutions that comply with the various regulatory standards that govern the sector. Microsoft Azure, a platform as a service (PaaS), provides pre-built blueprints (including a HIPAA High Trust compliant blueprint) that guide developers through the steps to securely host sensitive data 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 secure, compliant cloud infrastructure, although it’s up to developers to follow them.

Health data has always been subject to strict regulatory oversight, and business owners in this space must increasingly consider a growing patchwork of privacy laws alongside established industry standards. That’s largely a good thing. Vulnerabilities in IoMT solutions can lead not only to the loss of highly sensitive data (which is valuable to hackers), but also to the loss of human life. By prioritizing security and privacy at all stages of technology development, business owners can avoid the wrath of regulators and the potentially dire consequences associated with compromised healthcare data.

As healthcare eases the issues of accessibility, affordability, and accuracy, opportunities for technology in the sector will skyrocket, and IoMT will only become more ubiquitous. With the proliferation of individualized data, personalized, data-driven healthcare is closer than ever. How entrepreneurs can benefit from the digital health revolution

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