Microsoft unveils Azure IoT Connector for FHIR, to help with RPM security

The cloud service can enable developers to more easily create secure pipelines to handle streaming biometric data and other PHI from remote patient-monitoring devices.
By Mike Miliard
04:59 PM

Microsoft is previewing its new Azure IoT Connector for FHIR, an API feature that enables healthcare organizations to scale secure connectivity for an array of devices streaming protected health information.

As health systems ramp up telehealth and, especially, remote patient-monitoring programs, they're looking for technologies to help them manage multiple connected devices as they extend care delivery into patients' homes.

Azure IoT Connector for FHIR leverages HL7's Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources spec to enable secure and private interoperability among internet of medical things devices and electronic health records.

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"Today remote data capture often requires device-specific platforms, making it difficult to scale when new processes are added or if patients use multiple devices," explains Heather Jordan Cartwright, general manager of Microsoft Healthcare, in a blog post. "Developers have to build their own secure pipelines from scratch.

"With the Azure IoT Connector for FHIR available as a feature on Microsoft’s cloud-based FHIR service, it’s now quick and easy for health developers to set up an ingestion pipeline, designed for security, to manage PHI from IoT devices," she explained.

She notes that the connector focuses on biometric data at the ingestion layer, "which means it can connect at the device-to-cloud or cloud-to-cloud work streams. Health data can be sent to Event Hub, Azure IoT Hub or Azure IoT Central, and then converted to FHIR resources, which enables care teams to view patient data captured from IoT devices in context with clinical records in FHIR."

Cartwright touts Azure IoT Connector for FHIR's capabilities, such as its ability to convert biometric data –blood glucose levels, heart rate and pulse oximeter readings – from connected devices into FHIR resources; scalability and real-time data processing; integration with Azure IoT tools and Azure Stream Analytics; role-based access control; audit log-tracking; and an array of security compliances.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, remote patient-monitoring was poised to gain big momentum in 2020. And so it has – more than anyone could have expected.

And, presuming some pressing regulatory questions are sorted out on a go-forward basis, RPM and home-based care seems set to continue to expand, with all the challenges and opportunities that entails.

While the Azure IoT Connector is still in preview mode, Cartwright notes that Humana’s senior-focused primary care subsidiary, Conviva Care Centers, will be deploying it as part of its remote patient-monitoring programs – so enabling elderly patients to monitor weight, blood pressure and other vital signs at home, and easily share the results with their providers via the secure pipeline.

"Using the Azure IoT Connector for FHIR will open up new remote care paths for patients living with chronic conditions," said Marc Willard, senior vice president of Digital Health and Analytics at Humana, in a statement provided by Microsoft. "Being able to make decisions with data coming in real time from home devices will be the game changer for improving the quality and timeliness of patient care."

Actionable Intelligence

This month, we look at lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic on how data is put to work informing patient care decisions and population health.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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