A Call for ‘Medical Internet of Things’ Data Standardization?

Medical IoT’s Rapid Growth is Accelerating Challenges Such as Data Standardization


Ushering in the Internet of Medical Devices is a recent DZone blog that concisely explained “how connected devices are changing the world of healthcare,” which should not be of any particular surprise to anybody in the medical device design and development space. After all, as we discussed the other week in our blog, Who Wants IoT Medical Devices? Apparently Everybody, the IoT medical device landscape includes a diverse range of backgrounds, demographics and geographies.


With such widespread market potential, it should also come as no surprise that analysts are predicting big things financially for medical IoT. In its 2015 report Healthcare Market Worth $163.24 Billion by 2020, MarketsandMarkets (MNM) said the global IOT healthcare market—which already is an $32.4 billion market—will grow at a CAGR of 38.1% during the forecast period. Not only are the numbers big during this “growing phase,” but so are the players, which MNM said includes Medtronic, Inc., Philips, IBM Corporation, Cisco Systems, and GE Healthcare.


GE Healthcare was also mentioned in the DZone blog for its recent partnering with a startup that provides a variety of cloud-based imaging solutions—which be should exciting news for many in the medical device design and development space, as it supports the MNM report’s indication that big-time companies like GE are indeed bolstering innovation and growth in this space.


But perhaps more importantly—at least for now, and least for us involved in medical IoT device development—is what the DZone blog said about standardization. Most simply, it suggested that the GE project will be challenged by inconsistent “common data standards that apply equally in the U.S., E.U. and other markets around the world that have very different approaches to patient data.” Further, it said that “healthcare represents a particularly unique challenge in this instance, as so much legacy data exists in so many different formats” and that “perhaps standardization may be a little way off.”


The VCR vs. Betamax battle comes immediately to mind, as does the difference between NTSC and PAL video formats for North America and Europe, respectively. As with the data that the GE product is intended to share (medical imaging), the content that was either pre-recorded to video tape or is now DVD and Blu-Ray but formatted for NTSC or PAL is still the same…the only difference is how it can be seamlessly delivered.


However, one tremendous flaw in that analogy is unlike TV, healthcare truly is a matter of life or death. Granted, the technology to capture, share and store medical images and other electronic health records already exists. However, if medical IoT can improve access to that data—and improve quality of care and reduce costs, which is one of medical IoTs most significant promises—then perhaps now is as good a time as any to start a more serious discussion about standardization.


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