IoT in Healthcare: Balancing Patient Privacy & Innovation

Medical technology tends to lag behind other technologies, as the cost of mistakes at medical practices and hospitals can be astronomical

As a result, the field can lag behind when it comes to adopting the latest digital or IoT technologies. Patient privacy is a major issue, so all new technologies must be adopted carefully while adhering to various data compliance obligations that apply both to companies in general as well as healthcare organisations specifically.

Streamlining Hospitals and Clinics

Managing clinics and hospitals is complex, and it’s expensive. Many healthcare organizations rely on multiple computer and networking systems. Through smart bracelets, administrators can better track patient movement, and they can determine how often patients meet with their doctors. In addition, IoT technology can make it easier to track and analyze patients’ vital signs and other metrics, offering invaluable feedback and resolution not possible with manually measurements. Successfully managing a healthcare center is about maximizing resources, and IoT data and its analysis will prove to be invaluable.

More Time at Home

Occupied beds in a hospital are expensive, and most patients would rather spend their time at home. Through the IoT, doctors and other healthcare providers can receive real-time feedback on various medical metrics in patients regardless of their location. Sensors for patients with diabetes, for example, can provide instant feedback if certain levels are too high. Furthermore, IoT devices, when combined with artificial intelligence and deep learning, can even predict if individuals are likely to encounter problems in the near future, leading to more prompt and effective intervention.

Covering the Costs

Technological costs are unavoidable in healthcare. Fortunately, many hospitals and clinics have moved to cloud-based approaches over the years, and these systems tend to be better suited to IoT technology compared to older technologies. IoT devices are relatively inexpensive, and hospitals can conduct small trials to determine their effectiveness. Upgrade cycles are common when budgeting for medical care, so making the upgrade during the next technology upgrade period can make the costs more affordable and, in some cases, less expensive than maintaining current systems.

Security Demands

In the IoT context, some leaked data is fairly insignificant; if a farmer’s temperature sensors are hacked, for example, the impact is insignificant. In the medical field, however, any patient data that is accessed illicitly can lead to lawsuits and other sanctions. Much of the reason for the slow adoption of the IoT in healthcare is ensuring devices are hardened against attacks and meet stringent regulations. Data storage is central to compliance requirements in healthcare, but as Shannon Hulbert, CEO of Opus Interactive points out “accessibility is key”.

Established Companies and Startups

Established technology entities have been somewhat slow to provide medical IoT services. However, Amazon, Google, and other cloud providers now offer services for healthcare centers, pharmacology entities, and biotech companies. Startups are playing a major role as well, and many are using smartphones patients likely already have. Orbita brings healthcare services to digital assistants, including Amazon Echo and Google Home. Even relatively simple apps can provide significant benefits. Sunshine, for example, can track how often a patient is outdoors, which is useful for treating many conditions.

The high stakes involved in the medical industry mean organizations must take a conservative approach when adopting new technology. As the IoT continues to prove invaluable in other sectors, however, organizations are taking note. While the fully connected hospital will take some time to come to fruition, patients can expect to see their healthcare centers evolve over the coming years.