The healthcare and life sciences industries continue to accelerate the adoption of mobile devices and internet of things technology to simplify the patient experience, improve quality of care and create a positive impact on patient outcomes. Remotely connected medical devices, such as cardiac monitoring devices, insulin pumps, CPAP machines and other devices, provide valuable real-time patient information, without the requirement of the patient being tethered to a hospital or healthcare facility. The ability to remotely monitor patients means shorter hospital stays or, in some case, avoiding the hospital altogether.
IoT helps provide physicians with more accurate data which can be allocated to one location that is accessible to all caregivers. For example, a weight scale or blood pressure monitor that transmits data automatically takes out the possibility of human error when transcribing. In a recent survey by Applied Clinical Trials, one of the biggest benefits of mobile health technology in clinical trials is 35.2% of improvement in data quality.
Furthermore, IoT provides better quality care by opening a line of constant communication with the primary care physician to proactively intervene when they see troubling trends with the patient data. This simplified experience is economically beneficial for the patient as it saves costly trips to the emergency room and requires fewer trips into the office, thus giving them a better quality of life.
However, for remote patient monitoring — or any kind of connected healthcare application, for that matter — to be effective, the technology has to be both seamless and secure. Device and network security in this increasingly connected industry are huge concerns. In fact, according to a recent study by Synopsys, 67% of medical device manufacturers and 56% of healthcare organizations believe that an attack on medical devices built or used by their organizations will happen within the next year. Cybercrimes are generally financially driven. Medical data can be used for tax fraud and identity theft, or used to obtain prescription medication.
Healthcare providers have begun to take steps to prevent future attacks by securing existing devices and protecting new ones; however, they aren’t going at it alone.
Many organizations struggle with the end-to-end IoT experience — including the complexities associated deploying edge IoT devices, ensuring that they are reliably connected to a company’s cloud infrastructure and administration of ongoing device management and network security, as well as logistics support. These companies are turning to third-party managed services providers to manage their IoT technologies and infrastructure to help manage the costs and complexities.
On the network edge, a longer-term strategy should include mobile device management (MDM), which can help secure mobile devices that are deployed across multiple mobile network operators and their various operating systems, organizing device management under one umbrella. In many connected healthcare systems, these mobile devices act as connectivity hubs for medical peripherals and wearables, and introduce security and data privacy threats if not properly secured and managed. One approach to addressing this is through MDM technology. While MDM products weren’t originally designed to support IoT devices, some technologies have been adapted and specifically tailored to IoT healthcare devices to address their specific vulnerabilities, providing secure technologies to lock down devices.
On the network management side, one way to provide added security is through software-defined networking (SDN), which can essentially create a private healthcare network on existing public internet. Applying SDN technology to connected healthcare systems results in more control and flexibility than traditional costly and time-consuming VPN technologies. SDN creates a tunnel that is “invisible,” while dispersive technology encrypts the information traveling through, then reassembles it at the endpoint. In addition to enhanced security, applying SDN to connected healthcare systems provides improved business agility. The ability to segment and separate the network into subgroups allows more control over the network and the data.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly adopting IoT to improve patient experiences and outcomes. However, with IoT comes a new series of challenges, including data management and security. Proper ongoing management and administration of the connected device and network infrastructure allows healthcare organizations to capitalize on the benefits of IoT and provide a successful, secure and seamless experience for patients and their healthcare providers.
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