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IoT Sensors Critical to Successful Health IT Infrastructure

IoT sensors ensure different connected medical devices are properly communicating with the network and other IoT devices.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare is expected to lead the way for Internet of Things (IoT) sensors as the market continues to grow at a CARG of 26 percent from 2016 to 2022.

A recent Research and Markets report attributes the projected growth to the increase of connected IoT devices across all industries. The healthcare industry in particular has a need for IoT sensors to monitor patient devices and connected medical devices.

Report analysts said the main drivers for IoT sensors were the growing awareness towards health and various implemented health IT infrastructure advancements that have been widely adopted over the past year.

IoT sensors are the hardware component that pair with health IT infrastructure IoT deployments. Sensors monitor the processes of connected medical devices, taking measurements and collecting data.

Researchers found that because the IoT sensor market is competitive, the cost of deploying the sensors across a large hospital or multi-facility healthcare organization is relatively low.

The number of connected medical devices involved in critical hospital operations out numbers traditional devices in many organizations.

“An average hospital room will have between 15 and 20 medical devices, and almost all of them will be networked,” Aruba Networks Product Marketing Manager Rick Reid told HITInfrastructure.com. “That’s a pretty high density if you think about the size of an ICU room, which is usually about 15’x15’ with 20 devices in it - and the room next door has 20 devices in it. A ward typically has 20 beds, so that’s quite a lot of devices in a relatively small area.”

Reid advised that providers operate on the assumption that there are three to four times more IoT devices on a hospital network than laptops, phones, or traditional networked devices. A large organization with 30,000 computers connected to the network may also be supporting around 85,000 connected medical devices. These connected IoT devices put massive strain on the network and can cause outages if the traffic is not managed and monitored properly.

Much of the data regulated through the IoT sensors is being stored in datacenters with the potential to be used in big data analytics research. IoT sensors are critical to ensuring the data from connected medical devices is moving to the datacenter correctly and securely.

Healthcare organizations are often challenged with ensuring that IoT devices are communicating with each other. Devices on a network do not always collect and communicate data in the same format or the same language.

“There’s no such thing as one set of data that gives you everything you need in one single format,”  Geisinger Health Chief Data Officer told HealthITAnalytics.com.  “There will always be information coming from a number of different places, and there will always be a need to work with systems that handle that.”

Organizations deploying sensors from multiple vendors may be faced with sensors that cannot properly communicate with each other, sending unusable data to the data center.

The unusable data is hoarded and isolated on data islands that cannot be properly processed. Marooning data this way undermines what makes the IoT so valuable to healthcare by rendering data unreachable and unable to integrate with the data processed by other sensors.

As the healthcare IoT continues to grow, sensors will become a more prominent part of health IT infrastructure deployments. Successful IoT deployments depend on how well the infrastructure systems can communicate with one another, and IoT sensors are also critical to device and network communication.