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Medical Wearable Devices Strain Health IT Infrastructure

Medical wearable devices are growing as patients become more engaged, but healthcare organizations must ensure their infrastructure can support and secure IoT devices.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- The number of medical wearable devices is expected to grow as more healthcare organization networks adapt to the Internet of Things, according to a recent report.

Medical IoT and patientenagement

A recent report conducted by Markets and Markets projected the global medical wearable device market to reach over $12 billion by 2021 from $5 billion in 2016.

The growth of the medical wearable market is due to the technological advancements of medical devices along with the increased number of compatible IoT apps being developed for wearable devices, the research stated. Wearables can be used to develop greater care coordination, collaboration and productivity as well as improve patient welfare by encouraging more active behavior because of visible data and results.

Report analysts found that as fitness wearable devices continue to grow in popularity, the more patients are willing to use them to give clinicians better insight into their daily activities to better diagnose and treat conditions.

Wearable technology includes multiple devices types and applications making the market diverse and unique from any other consumer electronics market because data they collect. Developers are building applications for the evolving technology that assists healthcare organizations in knowing a patient better through the data these wearable apps and devices provide.

Wearable devices engage patients by giving them a more active role in their treatment. David Albert, MD, told mHealthIntelligence.com that wearables “draw a a straight line between the patient and the doctor.”

The data collected by patient wearables can give the healthcare industry as a whole clearer insight into diagnosing and treating medical conditions.

While wearables offer the healthcare industry many benefits the report acknowledges that the high cost of wearable devices and data security concerns may deter organizations from embracing the technology.

As the healthcare IoT continues to grow, organizations must evaluate their health IT infrastructure to handle the new types of devices and the data they are contributing.

IoT and wearable security is relatively new to healthcare IT security. The devices need to be able to access the network and data center resources, however they do not behave the same way as smartphones and other more traditional mobile devices and need to be treated separately.

Network-layer security is essential for wearable security as patient devices will be exchanging information with the network. Network-layer security allows IT staff to segment services for better network visibility of traffic patterns. This give IT better control over wearable devices accessing the network.

Along with security updates, organization also need to consider the data wearable and IoT devices produce. In order for patients and clinicians to benefit from individual data collected with IoT wearable devices, the data needs to be integrated into the patient’s record in a format compatible with the organization's EHR technology so an end-user can easily view and document the information received.

Additionally, organizations need to assess their wireless network and determine if it can handle an increased number of devices connecting to the network. And, they must evaluate their guest networks to be sure that the connection is secure and that patient devices don’t have access to the main healthcare network.

IoT and wearable solutions allow healthcare organizations to collect and assess data that can improve patient care and operations, but a successful deployment depends heavily on the organization’s IT infrastructure and it’s ability to fully support an IoT solution. Healthcare organizations need to deploy optimized service delivery models to incorporate the new personalized technology and plan around users to ensure the devices usability.  

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