14
Jul

IoT in Healthcare – Is Security Still a Priority?

St. John Sepis Agent, DocBox, and the identification of environmental factors affecting babies in hospitals are three recent and classic illustrations to demonstrate the impact of IoT in the healthcare industry. While St. John Sepsis Agent, developed by Cerner Corporation, helps reduce the deadliest effects of sepsis resulting in 20%–30% chances of survival, the DocBox has solved the integration of IoT with medical devices by developing a successful interface that helps healthcare executives to view collective data insights from sophisticated medical devices and improve patient outcomes. In addition, closed-loop insulin delivery devices, continuous glucose monitoring devices, connected inhalers, and ingestible sensors are among the few path-breaking technologies that have been commercialized and are changing the perceptions of fundamental healthcare techniques with the implementation of IoT.

Significant benefits of IoT in the healthcare industry include identification and authentication of people, tracking of staff, objects, and patients, and automatic data collection and sensing. By offering these benefits, IoT proves to be a vital solution to manage the cost associated with various healthcare solutions. IoT in Healthcare aids providers and patients with reducing healthcare expenditure, recovering patients sooner, reducing and improving their experience, and improved patient outcomes along with better disease management. IoT Healthcare solutions and services are replacing traditional diagnosis and treatment procedures with advanced technology. Hospitals and clinic, research institutions, government authorities, healthcare professionals, and patient diagnostic labs are few of the end users of IoT in the healthcare field.

Various factors are responsible for the rising adoption rate of IoT in the healthcare industry. Some of them include increased adoption of smart devices and wearables, need for workforce optimization, and decreasing cost of sensors.

Increased Adoption of Smart Devices and Wearables

Smart devices include smartphones, tablets, and phablets; and wearables such as smart bands, smart shoes, smart clothes, smart watches, sleep headphones, and others help in collecting, transferring, and analyzing information of data between a device and a remote sensor. The increase in the adoption of smart devices and wearables and the demand for healthcare applications have led to a rise of IoT in the healthcare market. Few of the devices have features like push buttons which can immediately send alerts for emergency medical help. These connected devices record essential data of the wearer throughout the day and transfer data to patient’s devices such as phones, computers, and tablets.

Moreover, smartphones with mobile applications for storing health information with inbuilt sensors are another great attraction driving the market for IoT in healthcare. These apps can be connected to the wearable devices of the patients to record the data.

Usage in Remote Patient Monitoring

IoT in healthcare has been embedded in current procedures and systems majorly in the context with remote patient monitoring in real time, collection and transfer of health data, end to end connectivity that assists in patient flow automation at the organizational levels and helps enable interoperability, data movement, vital information analysis and exchange as well as machine communication. In the case of medical diagnostics, IoT has helped transform routine medical check-ups to patient and home-centric that was majorly based on hospital-centric approaches. IoT in healthcare has thus contributed to re-define monitoring, diagnosis, treatments, and therapeutics in customary healthcare viewpoints, thereby reducing costs and errors.

Workforce Optimization Utilizing EHR

It is essential to optimize the productivity of healthcare workers, as it is another critical element driving IoT healthcare development. Expanding the network of connected devices to the healthcare workers has enabled the creation of a more combined system of operations, leading to better communication between different departments and bringing direction to disordered hospitals and restructuring communications between patients and medical professionals. This feature, known as remote patient monitoring, has been known to provide better patient care. This may result in decreasing medical errors and their related injuries and malpractice claims. IoT healthcare has the potential to improve the functioning of healthcare organizations; thus, improving the current quality of the system and optimizing operations.

IoT in healthcare applications use the data available for staffing and scheduling to ensure that the right staff member is allocated to the right patient at the right time. Further, by providing clinical training, it facilitates in making the best use of staff and equipment. For the enhancement in the working of healthcare institutions to decrease costs, the demand for workforce optimization is increasingly acting as a driver for IoT in the healthcare market.

Increasing Awareness for Self-Health Measurement

The growing awareness among people for the measurement of their self-health has propelled the demand for connected health devices. Nowadays, wearable devices such as fitness bands, continuous glucose meters, and blood pressure monitors help in keeping track of a patient’s activities throughout the day. This data is then stored in connected devices, which can be later used for the analysis of the patient’s health. By the use of these devices, the cost incurred for regular checkups is significantly reduced, since a patient can perform a self-analysis of the medical parameters and take measures accordingly. It is observed that self-health measurement has enhanced the demand for IoT in healthcare devices. This is providing a potential opportunity for IoT in the healthcare market.

Expansion of Healthcare Facilities in Remote Locations

Many of the places, particularly in developing and underdeveloped countries, have limited or negligible access to healthcare facilities. The patients from these remote locations need to travel a long way to get the routine checkups or a diagnosis of disease to be conducted at a healthcare facility. Telemedicine and IoT-enabled healthcare devices can help these patients to communicate with the healthcare professionals from their homes. Due to this, it is possible to reduce the prevalence of some diseases in the rural parts of the developing and underdeveloped economies. The expansion of IoT healthcare services in such locations can be taken into consideration by companies providing IoT solutions in the healthcare market. Some of the telehealth services include real-time video, remote patient monitoring, store and forward, and mobile health. Several companies, as well as organizations in recent times, have been offering telehealth services in the rural areas.

Challenges

Along with the various benefits offered by IoT solutions in the healthcare industry, there are also specific challenges that are being faced. The healthcare industry is subjected to multiple difficulties due to excessive data. The addition of newer types of healthcare data collected through various IoT-enabled devices, such as diagnostic data from digital imaging devices, digital pathology data, EHR data, sensor data, and research data from genomic studies, led to an extreme data collection. Such large volumes of data pose difficulty to physicians. This also leads to various security concerns related to the violation of sensitive patient information. The data is at a threat of being used by fraudsters to obtain fake claims. To decrease the risks associated with data storage, organizations have developed advanced security strategies that are capable of enhancing data privacy.

Digitization of health records has not only helped in simplifying administrative tasks during recent years but has also led to lag in productivity with the adoption of technology. The Harvard investigators team recognized that 6% of errors, that is, 63,040 cases out of 1.04 million were linked to computerized physician order entry. Such documentation errors highlight the necessity for hands-on training on better record-handling skills to physicians.

Studies reveal that almost 60% of the healthcare facilities across the globe have utilized IoT to offer better care and benefits to the patients. With solutions such as patient monitoring, smart pills, and low-energy location solutions, IoT helps in improving the quality of life for a larger population, hence leading to the reduction of healthcare expenditures. In spite of the drawbacks owing to the use of IoT in healthcare, there has been an increase in the adoption rates due to various benefits it offers.

About the Author:

As a senior level consulting professional,  Akshay Malunjkar has been a part of healthcare domain. With demonstrated history of working in the market research industry, he has more than 3 years of experience. Akshay is presently working on research studies, which are specifically focused on healthcare. He has knowledge about various healthcare verticals including biotechnology, medical devices, and HCIT among others.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/akshay-malunjkar-1304

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of EC-Council.

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