We have an extensive network of connected smart devices in the healthcare industry that do everything right from making decisions and working in groups to sending information to the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things, more commonly known as IoT in healthcare, not only boosts patient engagement and brings about better health outcomes, but it also improves the productivity of healthcare providers.
The global IoT in healthcare market size is projected to reach USD 534.3 billion by 2025 expanding at a CAGR 19.9% over the forecast period, according to a new report.
The surge in investments for the implementation of IoT solutions in the healthcare sector happens to be one of the key components driving the market. The potential for healthcare businesses to profit from the growth of IoT is simply beyond belief — and what better place to get started than here, right now!
Source: Grand View Research
However, IoT tools present unique challenges and requirements for healthcare organizations compared with those of traditional tech devices such as PCs and servers. These challenges often include increased network support, a higher level of maintenance, and greater security measures.
In this piece, we will be looking at a few steps for successful implementation when contemplating an IoT solution for your healthcare organization.
1. Pick the Right Network Architecture and Technology
A robust network happens to be the key for the success of any IoT application.
The monitoring of high-value equipment is pivotal to enabling clinicians to speedily locate what they need and putting a stop to theft.
However, one important thing to remember here is- if the IoT devices being used for tracking solely rely on Wi-Fi connectivity, then the wireless LAN must have a perfectly consistent and coherent coverage throughout the entire healthcare facility.
That being said, simply adding more access points might appear to be the obvious solution, but that can often backfire. Having too many APs in close range can lead them to interfere with one another, tampering with the WLAN’s overall functionality.
Therefore, the majority of today’s leaders that have successfully implemented IoT solutions, have embraced network access control technology to decide upon each AP’s absolute location to reduce interference and banish dead spots.
When choosing a technology and network architecture for a healthcare organization, one must also consider what IoT applications, such as remote monitoring devices, are available in their patients’ homes.
It’s vital that these organizations navigate connectivity options, such as using Wi-Fi that connects to the patient’s home network (or 4G, 5G cellular for patients who don’t have a broadband connection), before deploying these devices.
2. Identify the Correct Hardware and Devices
When you finally decide to move ahead with adopting IoT for your healthcare organization, it is time to puzzle out what will be included in the setup at your end. This includes figuring out every asset or device that will be consolidated into the network.
This hardware is composed of, in its most basic form, of sensors, i.e. devices used to provide data on components such as temperature, weight, volume, humidity, pressure, color, sound, vision, etc.
The data gathered by these sensors is then supposed to be sent somewhere over the internet. This means an additional type of hardware that’s going to be required is- connection devices. These devices are used to connect the network used for IoT to the data-gathering sensor or other hardware.
Generally speaking, the sensors need to be low energy devices in order to support operability for a longer period of time without having to replace energy sources.
Other devices that may be involved include actuators and edge computer systems. What needs to be included within your module depends upon what end goal you want to achieve in your healthcare facility. New protocols and gateways are specifically designed for IoT use nowadays.
Therefore, try to be aware about interoperability and connectivity before you commit to a purchase. At times simply modifying existing equipment may be enough. Other times, they may have to be replaced by ones designed specifically for IoT.
3. Decide on IoT Tools that will Participate in the Solution
The internet surely happens to be the bedrock of IoT, but devices are what make it useful: they are working for you round the clock, doing what you ask them to do, in order to make your healthcare service more quick and efficient.
A healthcare IoT device is any device that can be connected to an internet network in order to:
- Congregate sensor data, process it, and send it through the Internet to its labeled endpoints (for example, patient monitoring systems )
- Accept commands or inputs through the Internet in order to control actuators and perform a task or a set of tasks;
- Or do both.
There are a number of IoT-oriented devices at present that enable the device of your choice to “get used” to the user’s habits or condition, predicting their outcomes and warning them in case of any problem or emergency.
4. Secure Device Data and Practice Encryption
No matter how or in what numbers they’re utilized, IoT devices must be economical enough that healthcare organizations can deploy them widely. After all, the more IoT devices a hospital/ healthcare facility has, the more data it can mine to make key decisions about patient care.
To contain that price sensitivity, healthcare IoT vendors typically put just enough memory and processing power into their products to support a device’s core tasks. Unlike a tablet or PC, each device has some additional resources to assist cybersecurity software and thus poses the risk for a security incident.
Consequently, it’s up to the IT infrastructure and the network to safeguard IoT devices and the humongous amount of protected data they deal with — and avoid HIPAA violations that would accompany a breach.
Cloud-based solutions are greatly aiding in combating the issue. Through technologies such as machine learning and crowdsourcing, these solutions can track each IoT device’s behavior to spot anomalies that could summon it either has been, or is on the verge of being hacked.
When new IoT devices are deployed, these solutions recognize the type of device and automatically apply the proper security policies. Wearables, for instance, would require higher security than an IoT device monitoring indoor air quality.
This gets us to our final step..
5. Factor in Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning
The true value of IoT is identified through functional insights based on intelligent algorithms. While not every implementation may need predictive analytics and machine learning, the chances are that it may become a critical requirement in the days to follow.
When defining the data pipeline for processing the sensor data, architects should leave enough room for extensibility. By factoring this feature, it will become relatively easy to add predictive analytics to a healthcare solution leveraging IoT at a later time.