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Where healthcare IoT is headed in 2020

In 2020, technological innovation will bring another wave of digital transformation to the healthcare industry. With advances in cloud computing and AI-assisted approaches to healthcare, more and more connected devices will be used to monitor patients, make diagnoses and even administer treatments. Some of these devices will be located in patients’ homes, or on the patients themselves as wearables, and in-home healthcare will increase as a result. Along with the added convenience and lower cost of medical care provided by smart devices come increased security threats.

Medical data will increasingly originate outside the confines of the hospital. Patients will become the guardians of their own medical data, with the requirement that their medical records can be accessed and shared securely. Let’s take a look at three trends we can expect to impact healthcare IoT in 2020 as cybersecurity climbs to the top of the healthcare organization agenda.

Medical data moves to the bedroom

There will be three major forces pushing healthcare beyond the four walls of the hospital, according to John Halamka, Cynerio advisor and recently appointed President of the Mayo Clinic’s technology platform:

  1. The need to lower the cost of healthcare
  2. Quicker recovery times as patients will be less exposed to other patients’ germs
  3. New advances in medical technology that are making mobile healthcare possible

As a result, expect more and more healthcare providers to make house calls in 2020.

Mobile equipment will be used more frequently to conduct laboratory tests at home, including blood and urine tests and X-rays. Patients who were previously monitored in the hospital will transmit real-time health data to their care providers including weight, exercise, heart rates, sugar levels, blood counts and updates on whether or not they have taken their medication. Patient bedrooms will include hospital grade equipment with the ability to create and share medical data and diagnoses.

However, having more mobile healthcare presents certain risks. Though healthcare will become more cost effective and convenient, the border of the hospital’s network will become blurred, providing more opportunities for data to be leaked and for hackers to gain unauthorized access to the hospital’s internal network. The at home hospital situation will require nontraditional means to protect their patients’ data and safety.

Patients will generate and access their medical data

Consumers are becoming more comfortable generating their own medical data using consumer wearable devices, and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2020. In many cases, this will reduce the need for patients to go into hospitals or even to invite healthcare professionals to their homes for basic checkups as specialized equipment becomes unnecessary.

More than 80% of consumers are willing to wear technology to monitor their health, according to research from Business Insider Intelligence. In addition to the Fitbit activity tracker, several other specialized products have recently hit the market, including Omron Healthcare’s wearable blood pressure monitor, Apple’s Heart Study that monitors users’ heart rhythms and alerts those who are experiencing atrial fibrillation, and the Move wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor that records a simple ECG.

In 2020, biosensors with self-adhesive patches that allow patients to move around while collecting data on their movement, heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature will also add another source of medical data. These devices will need to include encryption and other built-in precautions to ensure that sending and sharing data won’t result in any tampering that could impact patient privacy or the quality of care.

As patients become more accustomed to generating their own data, they will want access to their digital medical records and the ability to share it with their preferred medical specialists. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January 2019 submitted proposals to “break down existing barriers to important data exchange needed to empower patients by giving them access to their health data,” according to Seema Verma, CMS administrator.

Adjusting communication protocol to allow patients to send and receive data to hospitals requires hospitals to provide an API. However, giving patients the ability to access electronic medical records greatly increases the volume of traffic moving in and out of hospital networks. As a result, this increases hospital networks’ exposure to risk.

Hospitals must protect medical data, in and out of the hospital

Since connected devices are critical for proper monitoring and care, they will need to be protected against tampering. Hospitals must account for a significantly larger attack surface. This will be especially challenging since devices can be in a hospital room, in a patient’s bedroom or worn by a patient. Hospitals will be held responsible for making sure sensitive data doesn’t get in the wrong hands in order to protect the patients’ employability, the ability to be insured, to prevent fraud, and to ensure data integrity for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Each medical device will need to be inventoried, tracked, and ranked based on the relative risk to patient health and safety based on the device’s role in medical workflows to keep data secure. Automation will need to be put in place to identify and map devices, as well as monitor communications between patients’ homes, wearables, clinics and hospitals to make sure there are no suspicious events that indicate that there has been unauthorized access. In the event a hospital’s network gets hacked, there will need to be a simple system to guide people through the necessary steps to limit data leakage and prevent harm to medical devices and patients’ treatments.

2020 is sure to see more medical devices deployed and more dependence on the data they generate and share. As consumers become more active partners in monitoring and tracking their health, hospitals will focus not only on quality care, but also on quality data to protect their patients’ safety.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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