The Internet of Things (IoT) can radically change healthcare. Using IoT to improve how data can connect patients to their doctors is just the tip of the iceberg. IoT in healthcare is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9%: with a projected revenue of $534.3 billion by 2025.
When combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the Internet of Things can open communication between devices and databases at a capacity and pace hospital staff could never match. But with all of the promise of transforming healthcare comes the dangers introduced by new technology.
IoT in Healthcare: The Benefits and the Challenges Ahead
IoT in healthcare is unique—it requires careful testing and planning from multiple disciplines to overcome associated challenges. This means a combined effort from experts in software development, healthcare, device manufacturing, data analysis, and cybersecurity, just to name a few.
With proper planning and implementation, IoT is on track to become one of the most transformative technologies in healthcare. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the early breakthroughs with IoT medical devices and many cybersecurity challenges in using IoT in healthcare.
What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things (IoT) combines several technologies to connect commonly used devices to the internet. IoT technology uses software to breathe the life of data into thousands of devices for the medical industry alone. IoT can use sensors and other technologies to relay information to and from devices, opening an entire world of data exchange.
When IoT technology is added to the most routinely-used gadgets and appliances we all rely on, refrigerators come to life, telling us it’s time to order more salad dressing, and washing machines automatically reduce the water’s temperature to save on electricity.
In every imaginable industry, IoT is turning devices and appliances into valuable points of data shared securely across the internet. In healthcare, this opens the doors of limitless possibilities to aid in patient care and data gathering. It’s a time when IoT software development can pioneer the ways data will drive changes in healthcare that were never possible until now.
IoT devices can be designed to operate independently or in unison over a network, with numerous devices connected to one another and a central database. Sharing information this way can replace complex, time-consuming communications.
Using IoT in Healthcare to Shape How We Approach the Medical Industry
In healthcare, IoT is being used to innovate and improve numerous tasks across the entire sector. IoT is already used in:
- Correspondence between doctors, patients, and staff
- Collecting patient vitals
- Automating adjustments to medical equipment on a doctor’s approval
IoT can streamline and optimize traditional activities and processes, but the way it can change traditional patient-doctor interactions and even vastly improve inefficiencies across distribution channels is also on display. The following are three prominent ways the industry is using IoT in healthcare:
1. Wearable Devices
Wearable devices allow patients to enjoy their mobility while keeping tabs on essential vitals. In this era of telehealth and remote work, wearable medical devices allow people to avoid an extra doctor trip without skimping on vital health data.
Wearable devices already have hundreds of uses, from monitoring your blood pressure to measuring your glucose levels with continuous glucose monitoring (CMG) sensors.
2. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Wearable devices can help improve the lives of people with limited mobility or who simply live too far from local medical centers, and remote patient monitoring can be used for preventative care, like self-monitoring chronic diseases.
In addition to wearable devices, non-wearable haptic devices are being introduced as the latest in IoT medical devices.
Wearables, non-wearables, and even implanted devices and stationary IoT can all share and validate patient records while continuously updating the user’s vitals, freeing the patient to live their lives while maintaining the benefits of their doctor’s watchful eye.
3. Medical Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management involves hundreds of different processes, but anything that can reduce costs, improve efficiency, and reduce errors is crucial to proper supply chain management.
IoT is used in radio frequency identification (RFID) processes for tracking inventory, robotics for drug-picking automation, and coordinating data for hospital records, as just a few examples.
A Broader View of the Benefits of IoT in Healthcare
IoT is used for preventative care, checking vitals, and sending real-time alerts to physicians or caregivers. But there are some benefits of IoT in healthcare you may not be aware of, such as:
- IoT is used to tag, track, and identify surgical instruments.
- It can integrate separate networks, for instance, to connect medical care data to medical insurance records.
- IoT is used to improve hand-washing hygiene compliance among hospital staff.
- Biometric scanners verify medical staff identity to protect access to sensitive areas.
- It’s used in video surveillance to provide data to hospital security.
- It’s used broadly in preventative care and improving health outcomes.
- IoT is bringing breakthroughs in the early detection of illnesses and diseases.
What Are the Key Cybersecurity Challenges in Using IoT in Healthcare?
It’s clear that IoT will be a mainstay fixture in healthcare, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t significant obstacles to overcome. Cybersecurity is one of the greatest challenges industry-wide, and IoT security issues sit at the heart of the most critical concerns.
Cyberattacks are prevalent in healthcare, especially where ransomware attacks are more than an economic threat: These are threat-to-life risks uniquely detrimental to hospitals and private practices.
10 Devices That Can Be Compromised by Cyberattacks
Stationary medical equipment and wearable patient monitors are IoT devices commonly used in healthcare. With an emphasis on wellness, preventative care helps save lives by preventing health events before they happen.
But, cyberattacks are a lingering threat, as everyone of these devices are designed to connect to cloud-based monitoring or directly with physicians and medical centers. The following are examples of devices that are highly susceptible to cyberattacks.
- Blood Pressure Monitors
- Glucose Monitors
- Insulin Pumps
- Heart Rate Monitors
- Sleep Apnea Monitors
- Infusion Pumps
- Digital X-Ray Machines
- Electronic Stethoscopes
- Smart Medical Beds
IoT provides countless new efficiencies and improvements to the life-saving monitoring of patient health, but on the opposite side of that technology, there’s an equal and alarming threat from cybercriminals who know how necessary IoT has become. It opens wide the door of sensitive medical networks to proficient hackers who can hold hostage the medical equipment hospitals rely on.
IoT is developed by privately funded companies that need to protect the proprietary technologies they covetously safeguard. This makes it difficult to standardize the potential interoperability of IoT, but it also provides a cybersecurity challenge: How can IT teams better secure networks of devices without access to the software and underlying design that criminals can compromise in an attack?
The following are three major security and privacy issues with IoT in healthcare:
Sensors and computer chips are inexpensive and easily replaceable, but when parts fail, IoT devices require experts to resolve hardware and software issues. Meanwhile, other systems can become unstable or unprotected against a cyberattack.
Privacy and Security of Patient Records
All the assurance in the world can’t erase the major breaches of private records and personally identifiable data that have been hacked and leaked in financial institutions and medical facilities. These industries are held to particularly high standards in their cybersecurity requirements by lawmakers for the specific reason that such damaging hacks have occurred.
IoT cybersecurity challenges can be viewed similarly to autonomous vehicles’ safety concerns. The technology, in many regards, has to be held to a much higher standard than the humans it replaces. One patient death at the hand of a failed or hacked IoT device is enough to set the entire industry back years.
Cybersecurity cuts to the heart of the crossroads between technological breakthroughs and regulatory compliance. If breaches can cause harm or worse—death, we’re likely to see more aggressive regulation for automated processes with an emphasis on human-assisted IoT.
The question with cybersecurity ultimately comes to this: how much risk is worth the dramatic improvements to the cost and efficiency of new technologies?
Do the Risks Outweigh the Benefits of Using IoT in Healthcare?
The Internet of Things has the potential to change healthcare, but it introduces a new layer of cybersecurity threats. There’s no question that the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
The future of healthcare depends on securing the devices we all rely on, which means adhering to the highest standards in healthcare IoT software development. IoT is data-driven, and security begins at the source: the skills of the developers who design the IoT systems that will undoubtedly shape the world.
Connect with Your IoT Software Development Team Today
Excel SoftSources provides world-class IoT software development teams for your long-term projects. Get in touch with us to learn how our nearshore staff augmentation can help you develop and launch software at pace, cost, and scale, with the highest level of security at every developmental stage.