Health Care: Making medical IoT smarter

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Health Care: Making medical IoT smarter

Medical PnP, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, research lab for is working on smarter, more interoperable healthcare technology to encourage easier integration of medical IoT devices and new sharing apps that can expand their capabilities. By using what is described as “by providing interoperability building blocks“ such as medical expertise and testing equipment that simulates health conditions as well as open standards, the researchers are looking to save lives by linking existing devices and deeply siloed data into an accessible web of medical information.
The Medical Device Interoperability Program, or MD PnP, in affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners Healthcare, is a hub for research into making medical devices dramatically smarter by making it simpler for them to share the data they gather. It is supported primarily by the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
More and more people are being routinely monitored by medical IoT devices in hospitals or monitoring themselves with Fitbits and Apple watches, providing doctors with more digital data than ever before. However, gathering and analyzing that data from disparate devices so it provides medical professionals with more complete information about the condition of their patients is a huge challenge. In addition, integrating systems from various device makers and ensuring regulatory compliance place great demands on hospital IT staff.

According to MD PnP lead engineer, Dave Arney, medical devices traditionally are a “little bit dumb”. For instance, a machine monitoring a patient’s blood pressure will sound an alarm every time the reading drops below a certain level, regardless of whether this marks a life-threatening situation or not, causing doctoers and nurses to interrupt other tasks and rush to the patient’s bed. Such “false alarm”, like the kid crying “wolf, wolf!” in the childrens’ tale, can desensitize staff members and lull them into dangerous “alarm fatigue”.
Context-aware alarms, says Dr. Julian Goldman, the director of the MD PnP program, can save lives.

The point is when you integrate sensor data, your alarm becomes a lot more useful. It becomes trusted. That’s the kind of thing we need in health care. And to do that, you need to integrate data from many sources, and IoT’s capabilities add to that richness.

The alternative proposed by MD PnP – an open platform that can be used to seamlessly connect devices without a lot of integration work for IT staff or the expense of hiring outside contractors – makes more advanced uses of medical technology more freely available to healthcare providers that might not otherwise be able to afford it.
Called by its makers OpenICE, or the Open Integrated Clinical Environment, MD PnP lab’s open-source framework can run on any Java-capable computer and connects medical devices into an information-sharing whole monitored by a Supervisor module running on a laptop or smartphone. The idea is to enable any device that outputs digital information of any type to be easily connected to a broad network of other devices. Simply by adding an OpenICE-enabled module to an existing piece of medical equipment, doctors and developers can make that piece of equipment programmable and smart, allowing it to share data among other devices on a network for access to smarter alarm functionality, for example.

Author: Tim Cole
Image Credit: Pixabay

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