As the adoption of telemedicine continues to grow dramatically, even as the healthcare and health insurance industries prepare for months of COVID-19 treatment and vaccination programs, the crossroads of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT for patient monitoring and chronic care management) and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more promising than ever.
Connected devices generate massive amounts of data based on measuring patient vitals in real-time, and that data is being sent to cloud-based applications which are monitored by medical professionals in virtual contact centers. Policy is applied on a per-patient basis, and the professionals who treat these patients receive alerts and notifications when a particular patients’ heart rate, oxygen level, glucose level, blood pressure, or other measurement hits a certain parameter.
In some cases, this data is tracked and acted upon by specialists who monitor many patients for many different practices, and in other cases, this data is sent directly to the provider, depending on the type of telemedicine and telehealth platforms in use.
As more devices are being certified and even approved by agencies including the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., the use of devices is growing, and the amount of data being generated is growing as a result.
The data is valuable not only in the treatment of chronic conditions, or as part of an at-home post-operative care solution, but is valuable as well to researchers, developers of pharmaceutical products, to other scientists, and to the health insurance companies who can use the data to better understand patterns and can work with institutions and professionals to continually refine care protocols and to ultimately reduce the cost of care, making it more accessible to all.
When the IoMT devices generate big data, the application of AI analytics becomes even more exciting and useful. We caught up with Barry Solomon, co-founder of TeleMedCo, a technology company that pioneered the use of AI in emergency room settings (working with IBM Watson’s AI engine), and today has expanded into telemedicine solutions and services for seniors and U.S. veterans, and which combine traditional “virtual visits” with remote patient monitoring using devices and a 5G connected hub from their partner, PrimoCare.
“Even without AI, the ROI on both human and financial levels of telemedicine leveraging real-time data and real-time communications is phenomenal,” Solomon said. “There is no longer any question that this is the future of medicine; the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this, and the U.S. government has been very responsive in supporting and paying for connected care, including 100% reimbursement through Medicare. The Veterans Administration has been a leader in telemedicine and is embracing increasing adoption with partners to deliver quality care faster and more affordably. The assisted living and long-term care institutions we’ve been working with to develop easy to use and highly productive telemedicine solutions including connected devices are very active and visionary in this space, and understand the value of adding AI when the number of patients reach critical mass.”
Solomon, who has with his co-founder Altagracia Miranda, MD, has been working in advanced telemedicine for nearly a decade, added, “For telemedicine to be truly useful, we must be able to collect and securely transmit real-time data the healthcare professional needs to assess the patient’s health, and act expediently and efficiently. AI can help physicians sort through and analyze the data they receive – on the most basic level – but can also help understand trends overtime and provide predictive information for preventative treatment.”
In the face of COVID-19 with its greater need for medical services while achieving social distancing, Solomon believes the FDA will continue to support innovation and that the U.S. and other governments will fund research and development, while the private sector itself is doubling down on connected care.
“Working with PrimoCare, we are already able to collect data in many ways, including the use of weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, heart monitors, blood glucose meters, pulse oximeters, thermometers, and other devices that connect to 5G networks using a central hub in the home,” Solomon said. “These are all fairly basic devices, which have existed for years, but today they are connected and feed applications with streaming, potentially life-saving data. We can look forward to additional peripherals, including ultrasound using a probe attached to a smart phone, small scale and affordable ECG machines, and brain monitoring devices which we have in our lab, partnering with VitalNeuro.”
Among the AI applications, Solomon believes AI and automation will reduce the risk of improper use of complex devices and will make the process much easier for individuals and their caregivers to set up monitoring in homes. “We’re in discussions with companies who are expert in user experience, and in providing intuitive training as part of setting up and using devices, as we cannot ignore the human factors when we seek to scale up and bring intelligent medical home monitoring to an everyday world.”
The FDA authorized the marketing of AI that would guide cardiac ultrasound use as one example of an advanced telemedicine IoMT/AI mashup. In its first FDA authorization, this guidance system is limited to use by healthcare professionals, but technology now exists to use AI to guide the use of complex diagnostic tools. Before this new guidance system, such technology would only be administered by a trained sonographer, not by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare specialists.
“There are so many innovative technologies that can be used for collecting data that more productively and accurately can guide diagnostic and therapeutic decision-making, and proven software applications that help deliver needed therapy to patients remotely,” Solomon said. “With faster networks, given the 5G rollout, with more advanced cybersecurity, with more affordable third-party off the shelf devices, and with cloud computing and open API communities, the opportunity to create and commercialize solutions that combine sensors, data, computing, analytics, and predictive protocols is unlimited. It is encouraging to see the FDA extending their support of these new combinations of proven technologies, especially in light of the pandemic, which is still growing, and in light of future pandemics. This is important, but it is the day-to-day benefits that inspire us – every day – to work with our clients and partners to create faster, smarter, more accessible, and more productive ways to treat the growing senior population, and to serve veterans with the best possible care, while reducing the burden to taxpayers.”
You can learn more about the FDA’s position on the use of AI in telemedicine and overall clinical decision support here.
Originally published on HealthTechZone