It is evident that we live in a world of dynamic technological revolution. It’s hard to keep pace with the various new inventions that are profoundly affecting our lives in incomparable ways. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one such radical technology which seems to have grabbed everyone’s attention in recent times.
The information derived from IoT can be indexed, stored and processed in order to make well-informed business decisions.
This game changing technology has developed from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet. IoT facilitates a seamless quick and efficient release of massive amount of data. The information derived from IoT can be indexed, stored and processed in order to make well-informed business decisions. It is truly an innovative and highly advanced technological discovery which has impacted individual consumers, businesses and societies.
Internet of Things is still in an evolutionary phase and needs to be harnessed by organisations in the coming future. It is estimate that one in every six businesses is planning to introduce an Internet of Things based product, and three-quarters of companies are exploring how to use the IoT to improve their internal operations and services. This diverse technology can prove to be a boon to a number of industries such as retail, automobile, energy management, biotechnology and healthcare. It has the potential to transform individuals, our society and the world economy by connecting real-time information networks.
IoT- A Change Agent in the Healthcare Industry
The Internet of Things is a technological platform with widespread mass appeal. It has become popular in all industry segments due to its speed of development, complexity, global reach and novelty. Internet of Things offers a lot of promises in the field of healthcare by increasing efficiency, improving patient care and lowering costs. According to an interesting report from MarketResearch.com, the Healthcare Internet of Things market segment is expected to hit the $117 billion mark by 2020. Some of the methods in which Internet of Things is transforming the healthcare industry are:
- Decreasing Device Downtime through Remote Monitoring & Support – One of the major advantages of this technological innovation is the ability for an IoT device to be tested and diagnosed remotely. For example, a specialist can connect from his own office and run diagnostics on an MRI that has failed. He can identify the root cause and remotely connect to the hospital’s technicians to provide hands-on-support. Such interventions in hospitals largely help to lessen medical equipment’s idle time and augments systems efficiency.
- Maintaining a Warehouse of Patient Related Data – It is essential for healthcare institutions to maintain and update a database of health-related inferred by or from patients. The Internet of Things enables hospitals to track, monitor and update patient information in a systematic manner. This patient related data could include reported outcomes, medical-device data, and wearables data. Computational methods of analytical support, known as augmented intelligence, are collectively used to analyse information. This type of an enriched database largely assists healthcare professionals in better decision making and providing superior patient care.
- Proactive Replenishment of Supplies- Internet of Things ensures better inventory management in hospitals and healthcare organisations. An IoT-connected medical device can send signals when critical operational components are being depleted. For example, the helium levels in an MRI machine need to be constantly checked to ensure that the equipment operates in a suitable manner. By using IoT-connected devices, field engineers can be sent out to a hospital before an MRI’s helium levels dwindle, preventing a total machine stoppage and patient rescheduling. Hence, this technology creates a system of real-time monitoring, tracking and immediate response. Any kind of asset depletion triggers emergency alarms and efforts are made for a rapid replenishment.
- Optimal Utilization of Assets and Operations – Healthcare institutions need to ensure optimum utilization of resources to maximise patient care to the fullest of their abilities. Internet of Things aids in efficient timely scheduling by leveraging utilization to serve a greater number of patients. Cloud based scheduling applications can ensure that machines, hospital staff and infrastructure is being utilized to its fullest capacity. Microcontrollers that process and wirelessly communicate data can schedule maintenance activities, patient calls and perform inventory management functions. An IoT medical device can provide daily machine utilization statistics that can be employed for well-organized patient scheduling.
Healthcare IoT: Risks and Challenges
The benefits of networked healthcare come with certain potential areas of concern. One of the major risks associated with the erosion of IoT is the privacy of patient-sensitive data. There is a colossal exchange of information through this revolutionizing technology and this often leads to concerns about the disclosure of vital personal data. Patient history confidentiality is mandatory in the healthcare sector and critical data may be misused if accessed by miscreants. Intentional disruption and manipulation of networks is another threat faced by IoT in the healthcare industry. Similar to any networked technology, IoT is vulnerable to hackers, thieves, and spies etc. who may create havoc through medical crime.
Healthcare organizations must also be able to identify legitimate and malicious traffic patterns on IoT devices. While establishing IoT networked systems, healthcare institutions’ agreements with vendors (including cloud services providers) should confirm that data traffic of devices are encrypted for better security. Network systems should enables access to data generated by IoT devices only by authorized and authenticated individuals with a need to handle the information. There should be in-built security controls such as administrator ID’s and password authentication to prevent the misappropriation of critical data. Devices should be configured to inhibit data storage media from being retrieved, and the device itself should not be easily disassembled.
It is easy to understand that IoT has massive advantages for consumers as well as healthcare institutions, but not without potential risks. The basic challenge is to develop this radical technology without compromising on the basic security principal of confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
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