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There are many health IT experts out there who believe that, because of the potential value the Internet of Things (IoT) can offer, healthcare organizations should definitely plan to implement IoT-based services.
This viewpoint was abundantly clear during SearchHealthIT's inaugural #chatHIT tweet chat, in which participants expressed their strong beliefs that healthcare needs to adopt IoT and discussed the many benefits IoT provides to patients as well as doctors.
But for others, a strong IoT business case in healthcare is missing, bumping it down low on the priority list.
"In healthcare, many hospitals are not-for-profit, and technology executives are constantly trying to evaluate which technology should we adopt first and what appropriate timeline is beneficial to the organization," Matthew Werder, CTO at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, said. "I'm not sure if there's been a compelling [IoT] business case, and I know [Hennepin County Medical Center hasn't found one] yet that would really push us to seriously drive the Internet of Things moving forward."
While Werder said that IoT in healthcare has relevancy, he questioned the financial benefits.
"In this day and age where IT is constantly under the cost analysis microscope, this would be another cost that we would have to find out how we could build that [IoT] business case into our [IT] strategy," Werder said.
Lack of accuracy, interoperability hinder IoT business case
Part of the IoT business case obstacle stems from a lack of consistency in early IoT standards in healthcare. In a prior interview with SearchHealthIT, Rasu Shrestha, M.D. -- chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center -- pointed to IoT snags such as inaccurate clinical data, lack of interoperability among systems, and added security risks.
In Werder's opinion, there are just too many other challenges to overcome before IoT makes it onto the radar for healthcare organizations. For example, many healthcare organizations are scrambling to prepare for government regulations like meaningful use stage 3 and ICD-10 -- not to mention the transition from fee-for-service to value-based care, Werder added.
"We're always weathering new things," he said. "We're going to have other initiatives from the government and business growth that are going to radically change what we need within healthcare, and regulatory and compliance issues are going to trump things like the Internet of Things unless there are just really strong financial [incentives] and consumers driving it. But I have not heard anyone bringing that up."
Old standby concerns still claim spotlight
Werder hears more about data analytics, improving the use of EHRs, and optimizing the technologies in place today than about introducing IoT in healthcare.
"I honestly think that many IT executives in healthcare don't have this on their roadmap even within the next three years ... I think there's just a lot of other bigger challenges that we're all facing," he added. "I think in some industries there's obvious benefit, but in healthcare, can you quantify it and really show the benefits to the patient to make the investment?"
Werder hypothesizes that healthcare IoT may become more of a reality for larger organizations, but many smaller sites are still preoccupied with tasks such as installing EHRs and working to optimize them, he said.
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