Leveraging the 'Internet of Healthcare Things' to change healthcare delivery

“The Internet of Healthcare Things matters because it changes the way we sample data."
By Patty Enrado
07:53 AM
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The healthcare industry is undergoing a “complete revolution,” based on all the data about our health and wellness that is being collected on a daily basis, according to Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist at Citrix, global provider of server, application and desktop virtualization, networking, software-as-a-service and cloud computing technologies.

In healthcare that data is exploding, thanks to the “Internet of Healthcare Things” – the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity that allow it to exchange data with other connected data in order to provide greater value and service.

Indeed, research firm Gartner has projected that the current 4.9 billion connected “things” in 2015 will expand to 25 billion by 2020.

Now, for example, personalized sensors can record health parameters, minimizing the need for direct patient-physician interaction by providing continuous data throughout activities of daily living.

“The Internet of Healthcare Things matters because it changes the way we sample data,” added David Ting, co-founder and CTO of IT security company Imprivata. “Now you can get continuous sampling of your health and relay that data to where somebody can actually interpret that data.”

Miami Children’s Health System: IoT drives consumer apps, new service lines

Miami Children’s Health System (MCHS), a 289-bed nonprofit children’s hospital whose many programs have been ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report, rebuilt its IT infrastructure in 2010. It also staffed its IT department with a solid group of technical and nontechnical professionals.

With its IT partners, such as Imprivata and Citrix, MCHS has focused on developing more consumer-facing applications, according to IT director David Bratt.

MCHS’s version is to “be where the children are.” That means connecting patients and providers anywhere and improving the quality of care, patient and family experience, loyalty and satisfaction, according to Bratt.

MCHS’s CareNotify app, which lets patients and their family members know when the patient is scheduled for X-rays, lab orders and other tests, will soon be integrated with video. This secure capability will enable family members to use their mobile device to be remotely present in the patient’s room and participate in dialogue exchanges between patient and physician.

The discharge instruction app allows patients and their caregivers to call up discharge information on their mobile devices, replacing the overwhelming paperwork that patients and their families typically receive when they leave the hospital.

These mobile applications have translated into new services lines for MCHS, according to Bratt. In 2013, MCHS developed MCH Anywhere, the first pediatric telehealth program of its kind in South Florida. MCHS’s Telehealth Command Center, based on the hospital’s main campus, leverages videoconferencing to help support diagnostic information review by board-certified clinicians.

The services have extended to wellness and other programs. The preemptive rehab services leverage cameras, an iPad and the intelligence and computing power at the hosted, secure data center to help young athletes prevent injuries by connecting specialists to these athletes wherever they may be.

In developing service lines that connect patient to clinician quickly and securely, MCHS has been able to increase patient satisfaction, according to Bratt. “The sky’s the limit to where we can go,” he said.

IoHT’s value proposition to providers and patients

Providers want to be connected to the protected health information (PHI) anywhere and via any device. “We’re seeing far more flexibility in how providers are accessing that information,” Ting said. “They also want that information pushed to them via alerts.”

Additionally, providers want proximity-based personalization – the ability to walk into a patient’s room and know who the patient is via the device, walk up to a computer and have computer know that it’s the clinician and allow the clinician to log in, and carry the same session while roaming from mobile device to desktop.

Patients want to be able to gather biometric data continuously with low-cost devices and integrate that data into their medical records. They want access to all their patient information spread across all points of care via a secure web-portal experience. “That will become more consolidated once we a unique digital ID for patients,” Ting added.

They also want to receive alerts and notifications, and be able to communicate with their clinicians with their mobile devices, which will support patient engagement, according to Ting.

Security a must for IoHT success

“In order for IoHT to take off, however, you have to be focused on the identity of the provider, patient and device,” he said.

Imprivata is working on provider authentication, enabling wireless devices to “vouch” for user identity without requiring the user to do anything, and proximity awareness to simplify login and logoff access to devices and applications. Patient authentication is also required to ensure the proper access of PHI and the integrity of patient-generated data.

Getting started

Roemer suggests healthcare organizations make personal commitment to IoHT by developing an IoHT testing and learning lab to validate experiments. Organizations can purchase devices and services to outfit their facilities and patients, and most importantly, determine the value of IoHT to leadership by reporting on key metrics for advancing the quality of care.

“It’s not about the annual doctor’s visit anymore,” Roemer emphasized. “It’s all about personalizing our care and empowering our caregivers and medical practitioners.”