The Internet of Things is Changing Healthcare

Posted on December 17, 2015

By: Michael Grzesik, Infrastructure Security Specialist

We live in a tech-savvy world that is now counted in billions. From the 3 billion people on the planet Earth that use 4 billion IP addresses to connect the 7 billion mobile devices and 2 billion PC computers to the Internet every day, these are big numbers. And these figures are only going up, thanks to time, population explosion and something known as the Internet of Things.

Depending on who is talking about it, you will hear many different terms. Cisco calls it the Internet of Everything, General Electric calls it the Industrial Internet. Many companies just call it the Internet of Things (shortened to IoT). “Things” is a catchall term for the sensors, mobile devices (the iPhone and Android), consumer gadgets (think Fitbit and Amazon’s Echo) and related non-computer Internet connected devices that are starting to make up our world. Cisco thinks there will be 50 billion of these IoT devices online by 2020. The first wave of IoT technology is here, in the form of consumer products. Going forward, IoT is a huge growth market for business, industry, transportation and also healthcare.

Improved Patient Care with IoT

Health data is a very sensitive pool of information that grows everyday with our digital lives. Health information that is stolen and compromised can harm reputations, damage careers and empty bank accounts. At the same time, efforts to digitize and streamline healthcare data sharing can create efficiency and save money. With the risks of IoT come many benefits in healthcare.

  • Remote monitoring products can increase flexibility in patient monitoring. From hospital insulin pumps to full-blown health monitoring systems for homebound patients, IoT devices can use sensors to track patient vitals and report that information back to doctors and nurses.
  • Drug management is a challenge for the healthcare industry. Right now, RFID tags (Radio-frequency Identification) help track medication containers in the drug supply chain. IoT will allow drug manufacturers to embed technology into the drug itself, in the form of edible “smart” pills. These pills can help monitor medication dosage and health issues with the patient and provide better outcomes.

Security Concerns Remain

Sensors are a key component in IoT. They provide information to the systems that track data, mainly on wireless networks. The big questions regarding IoT security is the largest voice of opposition to its implementation right now. Separating patient data and observation data is a concern, as is the overall technical security of the IoT systems themselves. Encrypting data on the device, during transmission and while it is storage is a level of security that many IoT devices do not perform right now. Device designers have to consider all these areas of concern before launching IoT devices into the healthcare arena.

IoT Growth is Unlimited

Just as there is still an untapped market in the four billion people that don’t have Internet access worldwide, explosive adoption of the Internet of Things will only continue to grow. A recent report from estimates the healthcare IoT market share will hit $117 billion by 2020. Consumer gadgets are helping to get this new technology push started. Solving real business problems and healthcare issues will keep the tidal wave going.

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