- High levels of provider EHR adoption and an increasing need for integration and connectivity tools in expanding healthcare organizations are driving rapid growth in the medical device connectivity market.
A recent report released by Markets and Markets forecasts the global connected medical device market to reach $1.34 billion by 2021 at a growth rate of 26 percent. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 6 billion connected things will be requesting the support of IoT. These “things” include mobile devices, wearables, and medical devices.
IT infrastructure consulting company Cognizant outlines how the internet of things is transforming medical devices:
The IoT is expanding the sensory capabilities for all products by providing visibility into the field and usage patterns, unleashing transformative opportunities for the entire ecosystem of caregivers, patients, payers, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals companies. The lack of standards, a crowded product landscape and the relatively nascent stage of technology compel medical device companies to carefully craft their IoT strategies.
The IoT assists healthcare organizations by improving operational efficiency. Medical equipment connected to the internet of things communicates with staff when maintenance is required before it malfunctions. Medical device communication saves organizations time on lengthy repairs by communicating when preventative maintenance measures need to be taken, saving organizations money by extending the life of expensive medical equipment.
Connected medical devices also collect valuable data constantly to be stored and later analyzed to improve patient care.
Cognizant gives examples of common connected medical devices including:
- IVD devices: blood analyzers, immuno-assays, biopsy equipment, and virus detection systems.
- Physiological monitors: weighing scales, pulse oximeter, BP meter, ventilators, blood glucose meters, and heart rate monitors.
- Mobile Medical Apps: medication adherence systems, and dosage calculation systems.
- Wearables: activity trackers, pedometer, and sleep apnea detectors.
- Capital intensive devices: implants, prostheses, and MRI/CT/ultrasound scanners.
Connected medical devices are capable of collecting valuable data from patients and clinicians to improve patient care and overall operations, but if an organization’s IT infrastructure isn’t able to handle or process the connections and data, the organization can’t fully utilize connected medical devices.
A healthcare organization’s network is the first component of the IT infrastructure requiring evaluation before any IoT solutions are implemented. The IoT involves a rapid increase in the number of devices accessing the network, taking up more bandwidth. If an organization’s wireless network is not able to accommodate all the devices constantly seeking access, all devices connected to the network will suffer because of too much traffic.
Each device connecting to the network via the internet of things needs to be cleared and authorized. Unauthorized devices connecting to the network this way pose huge security threats especially when personal devices such as BYOD and wearables are seeking network access. Outlining a policy for personal devices as well as well as placing security protocols such as a network access control solution or virtual private networks can scale down network threats from remote access.
HealthITAnalytics.com stated that IoT “concepts are so new and the infrastructure so immature that there is a significant gulf between the patients who are generating the data and the providers who don’t necessarily want to deal with it.”
Clinicians become overwhelmed with data if their organization’s infrastructure is not prepared to process, analyze, and organize information from IoT data sources. The data is useless if the infrastructure cannot present it to clinicians in a format they can effectively use.
Connected medical devices offer the healthcare industry benefits to improve patient care and overall operations, justifying the growth of the market. Before organization’s move to embrace connected medical devices and other IoT initiatives, building and maintaining a strong and capable health IT infrastructure needs to come first.