With the advent of cloud computing, miniaturized sensors, and broadband connectivity, we now have over 8 billion Internet-connected devices. Hospitals are already looking to this “Internet of Medical Things” to provide instant data-sharing capabilities.

But is there more to the Internet of Medical Things than simple data gathering? How do medical device manufacturers take the next step, to use the information to impact a patient's behavior?

In a Tech Briefs webinar titled Connectivity and IoT: What’s Next for Medical Devices?, a reader had a question for two medical professionals: Timon LeDain, Director of Emerging Technologies & Products at the Canada-based app-design firm Macadamian, and Tim Gee, Principal at the Medical Connectivity Consulting firm, headquartered in Beaverton, OR.

How can devices with IoT connectivity move beyond simple information sharing and gathering? In other words: continuous patient and provider work/life integration.

Read LeDain and Gee’s edited responses below.

Timon LeDain: Often [information sharing and gathering] is the starting point. Enabling connectivity to a device is a value proposition that at least provides an initial solution for an end-user. Because it’s connected and because we’re using and adopting more and more of a standards-based approach to that connectivity, you can layer on other capabilities or integrated disease-management solutions on top of that.

Garmin’s wearables, for example, previously integrated to a laptop when you connected it through a cable. Since then, they’ve actually provided cloud connectivity to their solution, because it’s a better user experience. Now we integrate Garmin wearables into our diabetes-management solution. Now, all of a sudden, we can leverage the sleep data being provided by those devices, and the exercise information that's passively being collected from those devices, to get a sense of why a patient’s glucose readings might be out of range.

That’s the opportunity. Once these devices are connected, the ability to integrate them with other third-party solutions provides a more holistic approach to patient care.

Tim Gee: First: anytime you take medical device data and you connect it to things and start moving it around, you’re automating workflow. Right there, you have a benefit for users.

The problem is that no one has really figured out yet how to reliably change patient behavior through Internet of Medical Things or digital-health apps. A good example of that is a study that came out this summer from AHRQ where researchers looked at diabetes-management apps. They found that only a very small number [contributed to patient improvements]. So, we have a lot to learn in the behavioral realm of things.

What do you think? Share your comments below.