IoT roadblocks in healthcare: Cost, security and data integration

And the solutions are tailored to address specific challenges, which can become expensive for any one organization.
By Bill Siwicki
12:34 PM
connected medical devices

The healthcare industry saw an 11 percent boost in Internet of Things network connections between 2016 and 2017, ranking last behind four other key industries – manufacturing (84 percent), energy/utilities (41 percent), transportation/distribution (40 percent), and smart cities/communities (19 percent), according to "The Verizon State of the Market: Internet of Things 2017" report.

While IoT devices clearly offer new benefits for healthcare provider organizations, adoption remains limited compared with other industries.

There are several key concerns healthcare executives have pertaining to the IoT: standards, security, interoperability and cost, said Nancy Green, global healthcare business development and strategy executive leader at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

[Also: Welch Allyn IoT home devices now standard with Honeywell platform]

“Consider the organizations and institutions that exist within the healthcare industry ecosystem,” she said. “Each has its own goals and role to play in the industry. For example, the pharmaceutical industry successfully uses IoT solutions that track drugs through the supply chain; however, a hospital with a sprawling complex might prioritize a smart community application to track assets for care, inventory reconciliation and personnel.”

For these differences and others, healthcare organizations find it challenging to adopt IoT technology because of high costs; the lack of standards and security practices; and challenges integrating data from IoT applications into legacy systems, she added.

When it comes to high costs, there is no one-size-fits-all IoT solution for the healthcare industry. At this time, solutions are tailored to address specific challenges, which can become expensive for any one organization.

[Also: Cybersecurity is top concern in IoT deployments]

And then there is a lack of security standards. IoT adoption in healthcare has been slower because the industry lacks a set of standards to protect very sensitive healthcare data against security risks and threats. Organizations’ individual needs instead require a tailored approach, with security plans to protect and secure each solution.

“Integration of IoT data into legacy systems is another barrier,” Green said. ”The complexity of information systems used within healthcare has made the integration of the data from IoT applications a challenge. The value of IoT is the data that comes from each use. For example, analytics from a patient’s connected devices increasingly need to also be available in that patient’s electronic health record.”

However, the IoT landscape is changing, and for the better for healthcare provider organizations.

“One of the key findings from this year’s IoT report is that while barriers still exist, they are actually eroding,” Green said. “The report highlights new network technologies like Cat-M1 that were introduced this year, cost reductions, changes in consumer behavior and regulatory requirements that are driving more organizations toward IoT adoption and advancement.”

IoT platforms will become more seamless and streamline the deployment of applications, giving developers simplified access to new tools and resources for IoT use cases, she added. In addition, there will be ongoing consolidation of the IoT market space.

Further, new Cat-M1 technology and chipsets will help reduce costs and enable more widespread adoption by healthcare organizations large and small. An organization could also review its needs from beginning to end to consolidate and streamline resources where possible, which in turn helps them better manage cost, Green said.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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