In our last blog post we discussed how cloud computing has enabled the Internet of Things (IoT), and how this is expected to change some of our most basic assumptions about healthcare.
One concrete example that may help is to imagine the future of healthcare through smart sensors, or sensors connected via the IoT. Some Internet of Things applications allow you to stream your sensor data to wherever you are hosting your infrastructure. Companies developing these applications recognize that the $117 Billion in healthcare devices is the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming.
This disruption in healthcare will affect the way we age, and how we are taken care of when we can no longer take care of ourselves. Seniors and the disabled will be able to use sensors on wearable devices to stream data to their caregivers, both health professionals and loved ones. Family members will receive text alerts if something goes wrong. For example, if the patient is having a heart episode, or if certain health indicators reach dangerous levels, healthcare personnel will know about it before the patient does, without the need for the patient to be tethered to a hospital bed.
Hospitals will also be able to use IoT to keep tabs on the location of medical devices, personnel and patients.
Of course, with all these remote sensors and devices, we will need tight cybersecurity. Most healthcare IT leaders currently integrate stringent security features for network infrastructures and electronic health records - but not for their mobile devices. As many devices are attached to patients' records, C-suite members in the healthcare community must perform threat assessments and know the devices and software connected to crucial patient data.
Another trend to keep an eye on is VR surgery. Surgery can now be broadcast over an immersive VR platform, and this has huge implications for training of med students and other hospital workers, as well as healthcare in remote areas and collaboration across continents. VR surgery, supplemented by robotic surgery, will quickly change the overall surgery landscape. In a few months we will see vendors switching from mainframes to tablet-type programs.
More of these sorts of examples are helping up and coming developers to see the opportunity in digital disruption and the Internet of Things. Yet, there are some known threats to the expansion of IoT in healthcare. First, there's the danger of overloading physicians with too much data and distracting them from their mission of treating patients. Some hospitals are still tweaking their security policies to keep up with the technological advancements of the bring-your-own-device and mobile health era. Securing healthcare IoT operations will add significantly to an IT department's workload.
As we see in the coming months the launch of new devices, platforms and applications that leverage IoT, we need to keep in mind its main use as a supplement to patient treatment through remote monitoring and communication, as well as keeping track of patients as they move through the healthcare facility. Doctors and hospital executives will need to balance security with better care, while coming to terms with the new normal in healthcare.