2020 MGMA in Washington Year in Review

Reprinted with permission from MGMA

While 2020 was a trying year for all, our Government Affairs team in Washington, DC fought hard to help practices keep their doors open to treat patients during this unprecedented time. In case you missed our 2020 MGMA in Washington Year in Review feature in the Washington Connection Newsletter, here’s your chance to observe our legislative accomplishments.

As we move forward with our 2021 advocacy agenda, our team will continue the pursuit of legislative gains for you and your practice. Here is a quick look at our top agenda items for the year:

  • Continue to support group practices as they confront COVID-19
  • Protect the financial viability of medical group practices
  • Advance value-based care
  • Promote standardization and efficiency
  • And more

Thank You to Our 2020 Alliance Sponsors

The North Carolina Medical Group Management Association (NCMGMA) is grateful for all of our 2020 Alliance Sponsors who have supported NCMGMA throughout this year. We encourage you to get to know all of these members and partners. From our educational programs to our advocacy efforts and networking opportunities, our sponsors help NCMGMA make a difference to the “leaders for tomorrow’s healthcare,” and we thank them for all that they do!

To learn more about each company, you can click on their logo or company name to visit their website. You can also enjoy inciteful articles and timely resources from our Alliance sponsors on NCMGMA News and our new Coronavirus in North Carolina page.

Premier Level


Executive Level


Partner Level

Apex Technology
Bernard Robinson & Company, LLP
First Citizens Bank
HandCraft Services
Mako Medical Laboratories
MDcentric Technologies
MSOC Health, a division of Coronis Health
NCHA Strategic Partners
North Carolina Medical Society
Prince Parker & Associates
SCS – An A/R Management Firm
Stanley Benefit Services
stockd. A Premier Marketplace
Strategic Solutions of Virginia
Technology Associates
TriMed Technologies

Associate Level

Appalachian State University, MHA Program
Biz Technology Solutions
CARR Healthcare Realty
Community Care of North Carolina
Flagship Healthcare Properties, LLC
Healthcare Procurement Solutions
ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists
IT Practice
ONLINE Information Services
Physicians Wear Medical Linen Service
Rockingham Revenue Services, LLC
Sentinel Risk Advisors
Spectrum Enterprise
Stern Recovery Services
Summit Credit Union
Young Moore and Henderson, P.A.

2021 Alliance Sponsorship Registration is Open
Click here for more information.

Manufacturers, Distributors and Physicians in the Crosshairs of Opioid Litigation

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of MagMutual

According to data from the National Vital Statistics System, approximately 70,237 overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017.1 Drug poisoning deaths have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide and homicide.2 Against the backdrop of this public health crisis, some predict that opioid litigation will look like the tobacco litigation of the 1990s3 – and pharmaceutical companies, distributors and individual physicians are getting caught in the crosshairs.

In early 2019, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay the state of Oklahoma $270 million rather than face trial on charges of misleading marketing practices and misrepresentation regarding Oxycontin.4 Many state and local jurisdictions are seeking to recover some of the costs associated with combatting the epidemic. Other companies entangled in litigation include Johnson & Johnson and CVS. According to Bloomberg Law, “In all, more than 1,800 state and local governments have filed opioid-related lawsuits. Penalties and settlements could run into the tens of billions of dollars, rivaling big tobacco payouts of the 1990s.”5

Although the medical community has implemented guidelines for safer prescribing in recent years, individual physicians are also finding themselves in this wave of litigation. Physicians are often faced with a dilemma: balancing the need to provide compassionate and safe care to patients in pain with the risks associated with prescription pain medications. The Federation of State Medical Boards developed a model policy that addressed fears about treating patients with opioids, stating:

Physicians should not fear disciplinary action from the Board for ordering, prescribing, dispensing or administering controlled substances, including opioid analgesics, for a legitimate medical purpose and in the course of professional practice, when current best clinical practices are met.6

Nonetheless, there has been a significant increase in litigation against prescribers.

In 2016, a St. Louis jury issued one of the first mega-verdicts in an opioid-related malpractice claim. The case was filed by Brian Koon, a city parks worker who became addicted to prescription opioids. Over the course of three years, Mr. Koon was prescribed 37,000 pills for lower back pain. At one point, the prescription totaled almost forty pills a day with three different types of opioids. Mr. Koon filed suit against the doctor who prescribed the medication, and after years of litigation, he won. The jury awarded Mr. Koon $1.4 million with an additional $1.2 million to his estranged wife. The jury also awarded $15 million in punitive damages against the prescriber and the hospital where he was employed.7

In another case, The Supreme Court of West Virginia held that prescribers could be held liable for their patients’ addiction.8 Twenty-nine individual patients filed eight separate civil actions alleging that three pharmacies, a physician and other medical providers negligently prescribed and dispensed controlled substances, causing them to become addicted to and abuse the controlled substances. The court decided that, although the patients were responsible for their own addiction and had engaged in illegal acts to obtain controlled substances, the providers also engaged in questionable activities that may have been a factor in causing the addiction. Ultimately, the court allowed the patients to sue providers and allowed juries to apportion fault to both patients and providers for causing the addiction.9

Physicians can also be held liable when a patient overdoses on a prescribed medication. In 2015, a California physician was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to thirty years in prison. She was accused of ignoring “red flags” about her prescribing habits, including the overdose of a patient in her clinic and receiving nine phone calls in less than three years from authorities informing her that patients had died with drugs in their system.10 Witnesses told jurors that the physician agreed to give patients powerful opioids without asking follow-up questions even after some – including an undercover agent posing as a patient – told her about their drug addictions.11

Strategies for Reducing Risks Related to Opioid Prescribing

In its report, Relieving Pain in America, an IOM task force recommends twelve best practices measures12:

  1. Recognize that chronic pain is a disease in its own right.
  2. Promote and enable self-management of pain.
  3. Address gaps in knowledge and competencies related to pain assessment and management.
  4. Avoid negative attitudes about people with pain, and stereotyping and biases that contribute to disparities in care.
  5. Develop educational approaches and materials for people with pain and their families that promote and enable self-management.
  6. Provide consistent and complete pain assessments.
  7. Use opioid therapy for chronic non-cancer pain only when safer and reasonably effective options have failed.
  8. Provide patient education and obtain informed consent when using opioid analgesics.
  9. Monitor during the use of potentially abusable medication.
  10. Avoid excessive reliance on opioids, particularly high-dose opioids for chronic pain management.
  11. Utilize available tools for risk mitigation, such as the state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
  12. Utilize a medication use agreement.

[1] Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. 2018. “Drug and opioid-induced overdose deaths 2013-2017.” Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub:.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Wheeler, Lydia. 2019. “Squandered big tobacco money a cautionary tale in opioid cases.” Bloomberg Law, June 19. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://biglawbusiness.com/squandered-big-tobacco-money-a-cautionary-tale-in-opioid-cases.
[4] Mann, Brian. 2019. “Purdue Pharma reaches $270 million in opioid settlement with Oklahoma.” NPR, March 26. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/26/706969415/purdue-pharma-reaches-270-million-opioid-settlement-with-oklahoma.
[5] Mann, Brian. 2019. “Opioid crackdown could lead to more drug company bankruptcies.” NPR, June 10.
[6] Federation of State Medical Board. “Model Policy on the Use of Opioid Analgesics in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” Washington, DC, July 2013.
[7] Brian Koon and Michelle Koon, Respondents, v. Henry D. Walden and Saint Louis University, Appellants. 2017. 539 S.W. 3d 752 (Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Division One).
[8] n.d. “Tug Valley Pharmacy et al v All Plaintiffs. In: LEXIS, West Virginia Court of Appeals, 2015.”
[9] Ibid.
[10] Gerber M, Girion L, Queally J. California doctor convicted of murder in overdose deaths of patients. In: Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times, 2015.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Institute of Medicine. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, 2011.

Welcome New Members

Our membership continues to grow! Take a look at the list of healthcare professionals and students who have recently joined NCMGMA (July 31, 2020, through October 7, 2020):

Active Members

  • Kristy Compton, Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, Charlotte, NC
  • Andrea Padgett, La Belle Vie Plastic Surgery, Wilmington, NC
  • Cheryl Sanders, Eastover Psychological & Psychiatric Group PA, Charlotte, NC
  • Chastity West, Impact Health Care, Louisburg, NC
  • Shelley White, Crystal Coast Family Practice, Morehead City, NC
  • Julianne Willis, Coastal Carolina Health Care, New Bern, NC

Affiliate Members

  • Ari Bram, Quinsite, Carrboro, NC
  • Roger Casey, Casey Creative LLC, Bermuda Run, NC
  • Rick Greenberg, MedHelp, Inc., Baltimore, MD
  • Jennifer Hodde, MagMutual, Raleigh, NC
  • Rafe Martin, ComTech, Graham, NC

Student Members

  • Britta Adjei, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Greensboro, NC
  • Emily Barfield, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Joshua Boaz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Talia Brintley, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Cheryl Bryant, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Naqib Chowdhury, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Concord, NC
  • CeErra Davis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Durham, NC
  • Mikayla Elliott, Winston-Salem State University, Clayton, NC
  • Emari Fields, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Concord, NC
  • Skyler Flippen, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Mount Airy, NC
  • Sarah Frost, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Myrakle Gates, Winston-Salem State University, Kernersville, NC
  • Che’Von Jefferson, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • DeNeighra Keels, Winston-Salem University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Kavya Kumar, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Morrisville, NC
  • Syma Lakhani, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carrboro, NC
  • Bria Lane, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Soumya Madhusudhanan Mannadiar, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Aaliyah Martin, Winston Salem State University, Indian Trail, NC
  • Asnath Mbonde, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Olga Mialik, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Indian Trail, NC
  • Alexandria Pandolfi, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Indian Trail, NC
  • Misbah Patel, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Gastonia, NC
  • Madison Shimberg, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Mint Hill, NC
  • Carsen Short, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Alex Simmons, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Evelyn Yang, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Stefanie Zapf, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Durham, NC

The Future of Business IT

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of Apex Technology

Informed by technology subject-matter experts from across the world, the Deloitte Annual Technology Trends report is a fantastic resource for IT professionals and business leaders. The report provides insight into technological innovations that shaped the business world over the course of the previous year, as well as the directions in which those innovations might lead organizations seeking to harness them over the course of the next 18 to 24 months.

Let’s take a look at some of the trends the Annual Technology Trends report foresaw for 2019 and take a sneak peek at what future trends are in store for us in the 11th annual 2020 report.

2019 Focused on Laying the Groundwork for the Future

Technology experts in the last few years have realized that in order to support the massive shift in how we deploy and harness the power of technology, that we need to desperately reimagine how we approach connectivity. Three primary initiatives stood out as key to future innovation.

Advanced Networking to Support IoT

The Internet of Things has been conceptually expanding into a landscape rife with connected devices focused on enhancing convenience and access to information. 2019 laid the groundwork for 5G communications networks to support the demands of the expanding number of devices across all industry segments needing bandwidth in order to be always connected. Mesh networks became affordable solutions to support the ever-growing demand for Wi-Fi access. Both of these innovations were necessary to support a shift away from centralized data processing towards edge computing – rather than wasting valuable transmission time, data is analyzed and acted upon at the point of collection, allowing businesses to truly act and respond to business requirements in the moment.

Doing Business in a Serverless World

2019 saw the majority of businesses shift to cloud-based software and managed IT services, as it has become more popular to outsource these functions. This almost total shift to the cloud pushes businesses and service providers to explore more ways of automating tasks, allowing management and IT staff to focus on enhancing marketing tools and techniques in order to better support the customer experience and revenue generation.

Let the AI Drive Your Business

As machine learning, natural language processing, robotic process automation, and other AI-driven systems emerge, it will change the way businesses process data and perform tasks. These systems will come to inform leaders at the highest level of the best path forward in ways managers might not be able to determine, and allow for efficiencies and performance not possible without them.

Moving through 2020 and Beyond

With these foundations in place, the managed IT services industry is poised to move through 2020 ready to help businesses explore this new digital frontier. The 2020 Technology Trends report is available and revolves around the major business initiatives expected to shape the path forward.

First, in order to stand out in highly competitive industries, businesses are expected to extensively leverage AI-driven cloud-based analytic strategies developed in conjunction with managed IT services in order to enhance and maximize the customer experience. Secondly, agile development will become a standard for business practices beyond software development – the most common application of agile planning currently. Data-driven decision making will justify a shift in how companies approach the budgeting and vendor management processes, as well as enterprise level finance. Finally, corporate executives are seeing the value in emerging technologies and are expected to make their adoption a priority. This is expected to be especially true for Digital Twin Technology, made possible by the confluence of edge computing, AI-driven data analysis and modeling, and an agile mindset focused on efficiencies and improvements.

An Ophthalmology Practice Sees Higher Value from its EMRs and Call Center

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of Spectrum Enterprise

Tomoka Eye Associates is a thriving ophthalmology practice, catering mostly to seniors along the Florida coast. Along with three offices and a surgery center, its call center is a key asset, connecting Tomoka’s 100,000 patients with live operators.

Enterprise-wide responsiveness sets Tomoka apart in a competitive market, from the call center to electronic medical records (EMR) software that accelerates doctors’ ability to make treatment decisions. But prior to working with Spectrum Enterprise, their network infrastructure was inhibiting their potential to improve.

When Tomoka sought to implement an EMR software platform in 2014, it became clear the copper T1 lines connecting their offices to each other and the Internet couldn’t handle these large files. Meanwhile, the call center had gone from an asset to a potential liability, directing call overflow to an answering service that left patients waiting hours — if not days — for a reply. Even simple fixes could take weeks. Tomoka’s outdated technology was undercutting employee performance and threatening patient satisfaction.

Spectrum Enterprise solutions cleared a path to productivity, efficiency and an improved patient experience:

  • An Ethernet Private LAN (EP-LAN) accelerates the performance of EMR software and other shared applications by connecting all offices with each other and with a 50 Mbps Fiber Internet Access (FIA) circuit at Tomoka’s main office.
  • Patients enjoy a more comfortable reception area with Fiber Connect TV for Healthcare.
  • Operators respond more quickly to patients thanks to Unified Communications, which includes features like a live dashboard that shows queued calls in real time.

CEO Bill Watson says that fiber unlocked the potential of Tomoka’s EMR software: faster billing, better use of doctors’ time and higher-quality patient care. In addition to a “night and day” difference in EMR performance, “Unified Communications gave our people the tools to be so much more to patients than call center reps. For this reason, we renamed the call center the ‘Patient Support Center.’”

Read the Spectrum Enterprise case study for a more detailed look at how Spectrum Enterprise is helping healthcare providers use Ethernet and Unified Communications to make better decisions and promote a patient-centric practice.

2020 NCMGMA Salary & Benefits Survey Launches the Week of September 28th

Save the Date and Participate
2020 NCMGMA Salary & Benefits Survey
Launches the Week of September 28th

NCMGMA is pleased to announce the upcoming launch of the Medical Employee Salary & Benefits Online Survey, collecting 2020 data. This comprehensive study is designed to bring our members the information they need to see trends specific to the North Carolina healthcare industry, and provide comparative information your organization can use to assist in making crucial business decisions.

Participating and entering data has never been easier!

Those practices who participated in 2019’s survey will be able to copy prior year’s data and simply edit positions, as needed, to complete the 2020 data entry. Additionally, for any practice with 500+ positions, an easy upload option will be made available!

2020 data collection will begin the week of September 28th. Watch your email and the website for upcoming participation details.

If you have any questions about the launch of the 2020 Salary & Benefits Survey, please contact the NCMGMA offices at info@ncmgm.org.

Case Study: A Large Ophthalmology Practice Cuts Overhead and Raises the Quality of Care

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of Spectrum Enterprise

Tomoka Eye Associates is a thriving ophthalmology practice in Florida.  Slow access to electronic patient records created challenges for Tomoka in treating and billing patients.  Read the case study at the link below to see how Spectrum Enterprise, an Associate level NCMGMA sponsor, was able to help Tomoka Eye Associates save money, while increasing patient satisfaction and accelerating cash flow.

Tomoka Eye Associates Case Study

Why Landlords Love Lease Renewals

By Stephanie Daniels, CARR

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of CARR

Commercial real estate landlords operate their buildings like any savvy business owner operates their company – with a focus on maximizing their profitability. One of the top ways they maintain and increase profitability is through lease renewal negotiations. A landlord’s goal during renewal negotiations is to maintain annual escalations of 2.5-3%, prevent any vacancy, provide the least amount of concessions and increase the lease rate. To accomplish this, landlords use specific tactics to keep tenants in the dark, uneducated, and often backed into a corner.

Renewals are rich deals for property owners and present an opportunity they work very hard to capitalize on. It’s when landlords make the most margin on a tenant, and it’s the most common opportunity for renewal rates to be above market. Landlords often fight the hardest on lease renewals too, because when lease rates go down, so does their building’s value. However, the typical concessions offered to tenants in lease renewal scenarios are often a mere fraction of the profits realized by the Landlord – further highlighting why most landlords love renewals.

When a tenant vacates, there are substantial costs a Landlord realizes to backfill the space. The Landlord has to market the space, cover all the operating expenses while the space is vacant with no rent coming in, and then typically invest in updating the space or fund the next tenant’s build out. In most scenarios, this represents a 6-figure loss spread out over 12-24 months of vacancy.

It is vitally important to understand this dynamic during renewal negotiation and hire a tenant’s broker to represent you and execute a strategy to competitively procure your renewal option. Together, this will ensure you’re getting the best possible terms on your lease renewal and tip the scales back in your favor.

It’s also critical regardless of whether you are currently paying above or below the fair market value of your space. Let’s review both scenarios.

Below Market Value

If you are paying below market rent at the time of your renewal, you can expect the landlord will try to raise rates at least to a market rate. They may even try to raise rent beyond a market rate to make up for lost time. This could impact your practice’s bottom line profits by six to seven figures over the next ten years, so creating the maximum negotiation leverage is both paramount and urgent.

Above Market Value

If you are already paying above market for your lease, the landlord will still probably push to increase your rate. They are relying on the assumption that you do not know the market lease rate for your space and won’t take the time to hire someone to represent and educate you. They are also relying on the fact that it usually takes a compelling reason for a healthcare practice to move out of their current space and will assume you aren’t willing to relocate. The secret is knowing what’s in a renewal (or a vacancy) for the Landlord and leveraging this information to your advantage. When you are overpaying on your lease, a landlord will have a much harder time getting a new tenant to pay the same rate as you currently pay. This gives you even more leverage to get an improved deal.

Timing is Everything

You may not need to move, or even have the desire, so it’s understandable that even the process of discussing and exploring relocations can feel disruptive. The question becomes, “Why take a shot in the arm if you’re not even sick?” However, this “side-effect” is more tolerable than a financial blow to your profits and is a needed step in the process to create a true posture that you have other viable options.

In order to avoid the greater consequence of a significant increase to your real estate expenses, remaining committed to the plan your agent puts forth allows you to rattle the landlord’s confidence that they have complete control. Additionally, by negotiating legitimately better economic terms for at least one other location, even if only as a back-up, will allow you to hold the building owner accountable to the fair market competition. These alternative options are only realistic and believable to your landlord if you have the correct lead time and position to negotiate. The minute the Landlord knows you’re staying, the opportunity for receiving any additional or substantial economic concessions is lost.

A typical lease negotiation timeline is:

  • Negotiations: 60-90 days
  • Legal review: 30-45 days
  • Design, permitting, build out: 120-180 days

Peace of Mind & Your Best Possible Terms

The goal in a renewal negotiation is to achieve the best possible terms and walk away with the peace of mind that you capitalized on the opportunity. The best deal often isn’t the cheapest one. By conducting a competitive procurement process, your healthcare real estate expert will help you discover your value as a tenant in your market and obtain the context needed for evaluating an offer from your current landlord versus your other top property options. This process will account for your unique circumstances, needs and offerings.

Strategy and Next Steps

The timeline above is designed to position you to achieve the best terms possible. Starting too soon or too late can jeopardize the terms or concessions you could receive. Space planning, negotiations with the landlord and subsequent legal review could easily take 3-5 months. To maintain the best negotiation posture, which is that you ‘could’ elect to move, it’s critical to conclude renewal negotiations before your landlord knows you are nearly out of time. In addition to losing leverage for your best possible terms, delaying the renewal process could be very costly because your current lease may have a holdover clause requiring you to pay as much as double your base lease rate for any occupancy after the term’s expiration.

Time is of the essence. A lease renewal represents one of only a few events in the life of your practice where profits can be realized or lost by six to seven figures.

Prior to negotiating terms, your agent should be able to help you decide how much space is needed for future years by making introductions to architects and general contractors to provide help with space planning and to test-fit options for best utilizing the available space.

An expert healthcare real estate agent is uniquely qualified to navigate every nuance of each scenario and consideration above. They will save you a significant amount of time and money while providing you peace of mind during this process.

CARR is the nation’s leading provider of commercial real estate services for healthcare tenants and buyers. Every year, thousands of healthcare practices trust CARR to achieve the most favorable terms on their lease and purchase negotiations. CARR’s team of experts assist with start-ups, lease renewals, expansions, relocations, additional offices, purchases, and practice transitions. Healthcare practices choose CARR to save them a substantial amount of time and money; while ensuring their interests are always first.

Visit CARR.US to learn more and find an expert agent representing healthcare practices in your area.

Future of IoT in Healthcare Brought into Sharp Focus

Reda Chouffani, Biz Technology Solutions – Published by techtarget.com

2020 Alliance sponsor feature article courtesy of Biz Technology Solutions

With faster broadband speeds, better analytics, technological improvements and more competitors in the space, the future of IoT has a greater opportunity to make a positive impact on the healthcare industry.

In the last few years, numerous vendors have entered the IoT market space. The 2020 consumer electronic event CES saw a record number of companies in the market with healthcare IoT products, such as care robots, intelligent home camera systems for tracking seniors at home and, of course, smart speakers. By 2025, experts predicted that the wearable technology market will reach $74.03 billion. This is a significant increase from its valuation in 2019 of $27.91 billion. Wearable technology is especially important to healthcare because it will introduce more devices to the market that patients can use to monitor activities, vital signs and several healthcare data points.

Why the internet of medical things is the future of healthcare

Beyond the growing market for healthcare IoT, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred conversations around the future of IoT in healthcare and how it can safely connect healthcare professionals and patients. Hospitals and clinics were forced to quickly evaluate telehealth to continue to treat some patients without increasing their risk of infection by bringing them into care facilities. Hospitals are also under constant pressure to identify ways to reduce costs. Wearable devices that enable some patients to be treated and monitored at home could reduce the number of resources needed at the healthcare facility.

Another technology contributing to the future of IoT in healthcare is the introduction of 5G networks, which provide 100 times faster speeds for connectivity than traditional 4G networks. IoT devices rely on connectivity to communicate and transfer data between patient and care provider. Faster cellular data transfer provides IoT flexibility in terms of the volumes of data it can exchange and at a much faster rate. With these improvements, new healthcare IoT uses include devices that assist patients with their medication adherence at home; sleep monitoring devices that can track heart rate, oxygen levels and movements for high-risk patients; remote temperature monitoring tools; and continuous glucose monitoring sensors that connect to mobile devices and alert patients and clinicians to changing blood sugar levels.

This new pandemic experience combined with the progress and recent advancements will increase the adoption of IoT and encourage those who might have otherwise ignored the technology in the past to get on board.

What would future applications of healthcare IoT look like?

With the increasing use of cloud services combined with AI, IoT devices are getting smarter and are going beyond just transmitting data from patient to healthcare professional. For example, IoT devices that use cloud services for data analysis are the smart glucose monitoring system and smart insulin pen. These two technologies not only continuously capture information regarding glucose levels, but also upload the data to a cloud service or a mobile app to be analyzed. Based on the outcome of the analysis, the insulin pump can then inject the patient with the appropriate dosage of insulin. Another example is the use of smart nanny cameras for monitoring elderly patients. These smart cameras recognize when routines deviate from the norm, such as if an elderly person goes into the bathroom but does not come out after a short period of time. Another application of the camera is for fall detection, which would then alert emergency services or caregivers.

Other uses of IoT that will begin to trend in the future include the use of bots or virtual agents to interact with patients. By combining sensor information collected by different IoT devices and sensors and using voice-enabled speakers, seniors can have access to a personal virtual assistant to remind them to take their medication, survey them for any relevant information that relates to their health or pain levels, and react to any collected information from their devices, such as glucose levels, fall detection or oxygen levels.

Beyond wearables and patient-specific interactions, healthcare organizations will adopt IoT in facilities for inventory management and equipment tracing. This technology — generally referred to as real-time location systems — continues to improve because of advancements in wireless technology and the size of the sensors. By tracking the movement of equipment and general use, hospitals will get better visibility of potential equipment shortages and who may have come in contact with the equipment. This is especially important for preventing the spread of infection, such as how the COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals to track equipment and staff who came in contact with infected patients.

History of IoT in healthcare

In the past decade, internet-connected devices have been introduced to patients in various forms. Whether data comes from fetal monitors, electrocardiogram machines, temperature monitors or blood glucose monitors, tracking health information is vital for some patients, though many of these measures require follow-up interaction with a healthcare professional. The use of IoT devices has been instrumental in delivering more valuable, real-time data to doctors and lessening the need for direct patient-physician interaction. Early on, the purpose of many of these devices was to transmit data to provide visibility of a patient’s condition through reported vitals. For many physicians, the data was not sufficient and needed analysis to provide greater value. That’s the direction healthcare IoT has been moving toward.

AI will continue to convert many traditional internet of medical things from data collection points to smarter devices that can facilitate meaningful interactions with the data. With the increased rollout of wearables, IoT technology will continue to see significant growth in healthcare.