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Five common barriers to IoT implementation in healthcare

Early adopters of healthcare IoT recognize its potential, but the technology has to overcome challenges surrounding data collection and security before it gains wider adoption.

Hospitals have recognized the value that IoT implementation can bring to patient care and operations. The ability...

to leverage connected devices that can deliver patient data and other relevant information offers a strong justification for piloting and investing in the technology.

With some projections in the range of 200 billion connected devices by 2020, it is simply a matter of time until all hospitals actively deploy and manage a range of connected devices in their facilities and with their patients.

However, despite the promise that the internet of things offers healthcare, there are several barriers that make it difficult to adopt this technology.

The investment in the internet of things (IoT) has resulted from tangible returns shown by early adopters of the technology. Because of its low hardware costs and ease of deployment, IoT devices have shown they can collect data that was once impossible to track efficiently.

Healthcare organizations have determined that the technology has several different use cases. Some use it to track their assets using radio frequency ID or near-field communication technology, while others use connected devices in patients' rooms or homes to track and monitor vital signs. No matter the use case, its compact size, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, lower cost per unit, and wide range of sensors has made IoT the perfect tool to unlock valuable data that hospitals are eager to access.

Despite the appeal that IoT has, hospitals that have piloted some of the available options in the marketplace are finding themselves experiencing some common concerns and issues with the technology. These issues have increasingly become a barrier to IoT implementation in healthcare.

Complexity of managing multiple devices

In a typical IoT implementation, a hospital is likely to use more than one vendor and device type. This means IT ends up using multiple platforms to manage the devices and requires more training for the multiple tools needed to maintain the different devices. The constant need to secure and maintain the devices makes these management tools necessary.

However, the marketplace is quickly reacting and attempting to address this issue. VMware recently announced it will be entering the already crowded space of IoT device management. Alongside companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon, VMware is looking to help hospital IT teams and others with IoT management and support across the enterprise. This highlights the increasing popularity of IoT in the enterprise, as well as the challenge it presents when it comes to managing different solutions.

Security is still a top concern

With the risks associated with the possible catastrophic outcome if a connected device, such as a smart bed or insulin pump, were attacked in a care setting, IT executives worry that all it takes is one incident to put an entire IoT initiative on hold. With news of IoT devices such as IP cameras being used to form a global distributed denial-of-service attack on several online retailers, hospitals are concerned, and often hesitant, when it comes to IoT.

However, one must note that PCs, for years, have had concerns over similar vulnerabilities found in IoT devices and, on many occasions, were the cause of serious breaches and attacks.

IoT vendors today are investing in keeping their firmware up to date, and with many of the modern IoT management platforms, monitoring access and usage helps ensure that they are not falling into the wrong hands.

Lack of expertise and resources

As more IoT devices are put to the test in hospitals, many still rely on their technologists and a handful of internal resources to experiment with and evaluate the capabilities offered by these connected devices.

Many CIOs cite that sometimes their teams are simply not knowledgeable or equipped enough to engage in the experimentation or evaluation of IoT technology, and relying heavily on third-party consultants and IoT vendors can be costly. This can cause delays in the start of an IoT initiative.

Too much data

One of IoT's biggest values is the data it collects and returns. The troves of data IoT can gather opens up the door for more opportunities to gain insights from the information gathered from patients and other areas within the hospital. However, having the data is not enough; the critical task after the data is collected is the analysis. This means hospitals must be ready to mine the data collected to justify the costs and resources used for IoT.

Unfortunately, this can be challenging for some organizations that may not have the adequate resources to perform advanced analytics. This can be a showstopper for some organizations, as IoT cannot move past the data collection phase.

Many CIOs cite that sometimes their teams are simply not knowledgeable or equipped enough to engage in the experimentation or evaluation of IoT technology, and relying heavily on third-party consultants and IoT vendors can be costly.

Despite the numerous challenges that hospitals face when considering IoT adoption, many of them are already using the technology inside their facilities in one capacity or another. Most medical devices in use in hospitals today are connected devices, and most of them are actively feeding data back to a centralized system.

However, to truly leverage what IoT has to offer, hospitals must continue to push for more experimentation with the technology, as well as adoption of many of the proven IoT solutions currently available. With adequate planning, security safeguards and leadership buy-in, hospitals will be able to better gauge the level of impact their hospitals will receive from this technology.

Next Steps

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This was last published in June 2017

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