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New healthcare IoT ideas on the rise

An Internet of Things expert from MIT said healthcare IoT isn't fully here, but near field communication technology is helping it along.

At Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital, clinicians in a recent pilot used tablets enabled with near field communication (NFC) and a new mobile app to replace cumbersome and expensive medication bar code-reading carts at patients' bedsides.

Stephen Miles, a research affiliate at the Auto-ID Labs and Center for Biomedical Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was part of the project.

In this podcast, Miles, an Internet of Things (IoT) expert, says new healthcare IoT applications are becoming increasingly affordable and easy to use because of the high frequency NFC radio frequency identification mini-chips in many new smartphones and tablets.

However, Miles says the "Internet of Medical Things" hasn't truly arrived because medical device vendors haven't agreed on common communication protocols, among other reasons. Hospitals often use devices from many different manufacturers, each with its own proprietary standards, he points out.

Another impediment is the lack of a national patient identifier system, Miles says. A national patient ID would help identify patients and the devices and medications they use, just as the Internet identifies users by their computing devices' IP addresses, he says.

And security remains a major problem in adapting IoT to medical settings, Miles says. One thorny issue, for example, is how to track the transport of narcotic-based medications so workers doing the bar code scanning don't know the precise content of the package.

But Miles says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' meaningful use program and the value-based care approach it spawned have in turn spurred healthcare IoT by dramatically expanding the quantity and scope of digitized health data to be analyzed and tracked.

Let us know what you think about the story or healthcare IoT; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writeror contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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