The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), from your office to patient care, is here for your benefit
There’s little denying that the internet has made our lives easier. Have a question? Just ask Google or Siri. Forget to turn on your home alarm but already at the office? Simply open the app on your smartphone and tap the “Arm System” button. Even though you are miles away, your home is now secure. The question to ask yourself is whether you’re taking full advantage of the internet’s capabilities within your chiropractic practice. If you’re not utilizing the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), your answer may be no.
What comprises the IoMT?
“IoMT are a group of technology systems, software or objects that allow the involvement of artificial intelligence to make health information gathering and sharing more efficient, more accessible, and easier to share amongst patient and doctor, and doctor to doctor,” says Jenna Brennan, DC, of the devices connected to the internet or Bluetooth technology.
Many of us already use the not-necessarily-medical “Internet of Things” (IoT) in our daily lives. We have smart thermostats controlling the temperatures in our home or smart smoke detectors to alert us via smartphone if there is a fire. An Amazon Echo is another example of artificial intelligence capable of handling some of our day-to-day needs. The IoMT takes this same type of convenience and incorporates it into the health care system.
Several health care practitioners are already using the IoMT. Machine learning is being utilized to offer patients more precise medication recommendations and wearable devices are keeping medical professionals informed as to a patient’s heart rate, blood sugar levels and more.
“IoMT is definitely an interesting role to bring to chiropractic because the practice tends to shy away from technology over the years,” says Brennan, adding that “the use of IoMT can offer a lot to the field of chiropractic.”
IoMT for DCs
One value that IoMT stands to offer DCs is helping patients recognize when a visit to the chiropractor can help resolve a health-related concern. Chatbots can assist with this on websites or even text messaging.
Chatbots are computer programs that are able to answer basic questions online, almost as if communicating with a real human. Through sharing their symptoms or injuries, the chatbot can tell patients what type of medical care they may need.
“Now the patient can be sent to the chiropractor for certain injuries and pain instead of being sent to the ER, which is meant for more emergent and life-threatening conditions,” says Brennan. “I don’t know how many times I have heard of a patient or friend having to go to urgent care or ER because they sprained their ankle or threw their back out doing yard work when they could’ve saved time and money being sent to their chiropractor for evaluation.”
For DCs who specialize in internal and functional medicine practices, the IoMT may offer even more value. These practitioners can use the information obtained to better diagnose and treat patients. This could include collecting data regarding the patient’s electrical activity, internal temperature and blood sugar levels.
Another value the IoMT offers DCs involves gathering patient health records and information while also creating a more efficient process for sharing this information between doctors and offices. This helps reduce the time and frustration of trying to send or retrieve patient data.
“The objective with IoMTs is that there will be medical devices that are able to generate, collect, analyze or transmit health data, X-rays and images and then connect to health care provider networks, which eliminates the waiting to call an office or imaging center to then have to send a fax or prescription or release of records; or send the patient on a runaround to gather their info to only get a CD which nobody’s computer uses anymore to not have the image that you sent for,” Brennan says. “This fact alone is critical to more efficient and correct diagnoses and can eliminate a lot of wasted time for the doctor and the patient.”
IoMT value to patients
IoMT provides more accessibility to patient health care providers while also increasing patients’ access to their own health records and information. Brennan indicates that this allows patients to “track their own data and internal markers to prevent injury or chronic diseases to better their quality of life.”
One example of this specific to chiropractic is related to patients involved in sports. “Being able to track markers for performance is a huge part in rehabbing and tweaking certain markers to create more optimal performance,” says Brennan.
But IoMT offers value to other patients as well.
“If the chiropractor or therapist is providing post-hip-surgery rehab and treatment and that patient has biosensors placed to record data related to the nerve stimulations, blood supply, pressure applied, bone density, etc., related to that hip, the rehab will be 10,000% more efficient for everyone and most likely lead to a cost cut for the treatment as well,” Brennan says.
Incorporating it into your practice
“As a field, we have incorporated more technological aspects to make our lives easier and to bring healing to patients,” says Brennan, citing the use of EHRs, digital X-rays, electrical muscle stimulation machines and more. One option for wading into this technology is with chatbots.
“Chiropractors can definitely benefit from chatbots that help triage patients out of the office and help treat those that maybe cannot make it in the office,” Brennan says. “We got a glimpse of what that looks like with COVID this past year and telehealth.”
The IoMT can also be utilized with the patient’s own devices, some of which include the Fitbit, Apple watches, cardiograms and more. Brennan considers all of these devices when formulating patient treatment and management plans within her own office, incorporating the information they provide to develop rehab programs and movement protocols.
Take advantage of the technology
“At the end of the day, chiropractic is wonderful but definitely has struggled to remain a powerhouse in the ever-evolving world of technology,” says Brennan. “We harness healing with our hands-on techniques and allowing the body to heal on its own. However, with the world and society as it is developing, the use of sensors and software can only benefit how many patients chiropractic can reach, the education and health efficiency that chiropractic can provide, and improve patients’ quality of life.
“Being able to communicate faster and more direct[ly] with other providers and patients will allow our offices to function at a higher capacity and see more people.”
SPENCER BARON, DC, DACBSP, served as a team chiropractic physician for the Miami Dolphins for 19 years and is author of “Secrets of the Game.” He currently serves as the team chiropractor for Nova Southeastern University Sports Medicine and is the president of NeuroSport Elite. In 2001 he helped establish the Pro Football Chiropractic Society and the Pro Baseball Chiropractic Society, bringing together some of the best sports chiropractors in the nation. Now he directs the same type of efforts to DoCS (Doctors of Chiropractic Sports at doc-sports.com), an organization committed to creating camaraderie and coaching within the chiropractic profession.
 Davenport T, Kalakota R. The potential for artificial intelligence in healthcare. Future Healthcare Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616181/. Published Jun 2019. Accessed May 26, 2021.