How Telehealth Connectivity Innovation Empowers Us to Live Safer and Fuller Lives

February 25, 2021 - 8 minutes read

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Telehealth has changed how we treat and care for those who have medical maladies and are vulnerable. The latest innovations in this field are enabling people to live safer, fuller lives without the need for constant human supervision. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this abundantly clear; more healthcare facilities than ever before are embracing telemedicine in an effort to keep patients from in-person appointments that risk exposure to the deadly virus.

Recent telehealth innovations such as wearables heavily rely on the Internet of Things. With this technological paradigm, we can securely transmit and analyze data in order to unearth life-improving care plans. These capabilities allow aging populations to continue to live in their own homes while reducing the burden that many care facilities are experiencing at the moment. In this post, we’ll examine the benefits of furthering telehealth connectivity innovation and the factors needed to make it happen.

Enabling Patient Independence

Good connectivity is essential for three types of telehealth monitoring: passive, active, and condition.

Passive monitoring deals with medical applications and technologies in the patient’s home that quietly monitor his or her behavior. These devices usually only initiate action if they notice something concerning. For instance, the Alcuris Memo Hub connects a variety of smart devices around a patient’s home, like a tea kettle, TV, and lighting. If this platform notices a change in the patient’s typical pattern of behavior, it will issue an alert. It can also observe and trigger an alert for gradual changes that may indicate a revision to a health regimen is required.

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Active monitoring entails devices such as panic buttons and two-way intercoms. In summation, these devices require proactive action, either from the patient or a caretaker.

Lastly, as its name implies, condition monitoring involves the monitoring of specific health conditions. It combines aspects of the first two approaches we’ve discussed with detailed health data, like blood pressure, heart rate, and movement.

Simplicity Is Essential

Digital health innovations help improve the quality of life for aging populations as well as patients living with chronic conditions and disabilities. They also help lower the costs and resources needed for adequate healthcare delivery for these cases.

Ensuring that telehealth devices have enough connectivity to reliably capture, share, and analyze data is absolutely necessary. Without proper connectivity, wrong conclusions (and consequently, outcomes) could be reached. But these connected devices need one more feature to take telehealth to the next level: the ability to work right out of the box.

Telehealth device manufacturers should configure their devices to seamlessly connect to a healthcare provider’s system seamlessly without any complexities. They should also be able to work anywhere, whether that’s Beijing or Los Angeles. Making telehealth devices and platforms plug-and-play is imperative since a large portion of their audience may not be tech-savvy or have the time to set up complicated systems.

Overcoming Connectivity Obstacles

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, chances are good that you have some experience with mobile phones. This means you’re also painfully familiar with the occurrence of black spots where your mobile device can’t receive a strong, reliable signal. Can you imagine this conundrum for a device that your life depends on?

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When a patient’s life is on the line, we cannot compromise on connectivity. To mitigate this issue, telehealth devices should be capable of selecting the best network based on its location and even change between networks to minimize drop-out time. During a critical moment, a dropped connection can mean the difference between life and death. So any device in the telehealth market should offer strong, reliable, and continuous connectivity.

To ensure optimal connectivity, medical device makers must consider its importance from the start of the design process. This often translates to a few common factors for the device. For example, it must be lightweight, easy to operate, robust, and unobtrusive. Often, these elements restrict the design of these devices, which is something that manufacturers may have not dealt with before if they previously focused on larger or fixed devices.

On top of this, manufacturers must also think through what occurs at the back end of their telehealth devices. Do they connect to a cloud service through which analyses are run? Or is the data being transmitted to another human who needs convenient access to it? In this case, how should the information be presented? Alongside connectivity, this focus on communication must also be considered at the beginning of the design stage.

Don’t Forget Security

End-to-end security is always crucial for anything that handles sensitive data such as telehealth devices. Whether it’s your hardware or software, all of your connectivity platforms must be secured properly in order for your device to work effectively.

Unfortunately, several consumer SIMs lack advanced security protocols. They actually send data over standard internet channels, which increases the risk of this information being stolen or lost. To mitigate this, prioritize security early on in the device design phase.

Numerous IoT manufacturers treat device security as an afterthought. As we know from the IoT industry’s track record with data breaches, this has not worked out well. The same mistakes cannot be made when it comes to the personal data of patients.

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Dedicated end-to-end security solutions are usually the best for telehealth devices. This involves measures such as data encryption at the device level, communication through trusted private networks and secure gateways, authentication, and authorization.

If you want to take things a step further (which is never a bad idea), add in data flow monitoring tools to detect any unusual activity. These could be your first indicators of a malicious attack taking place. Lastly, consider consulting a third-party pen tester before deployment.

Are You Ready for the Future of Telehealth?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of how connectivity can help accelerate telehealth innovation. It may not be the first topic that comes to mind when you think of new capabilities in digital medicine, but it’s certainly among the most important. By emphasizing connectivity during the design of a telehealth device, you’re able to give patients and providers more peace of mind and unlock better outcomes for both parties.

Have you had any unusual experiences with telehealth connectivity? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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