The Biggest Challenges to Healthcare IoT in 2019

January 9, 2019 - 7 minutes read

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Perhaps no other sector could benefit more from the Internet of Things (IoT) than healthcare. In fact, IoT development has already radically changed the landscape of the field. Doctors can now monitor patients’ chronic diseases continuously. With up-to-date and accurate data in tow, specialists can confer with one another across the world about difficult cases.

But like any disruptive technology, IoT brings its fair share of obstacles when it comes to implementation. Here are the challenges that medical developers and innovators should be aware of as we head into 2019.

The Majority of IoT Initiatives Fail

Almost 75% of IoT initiatives are unsuccessful.

In 2017, Cisco conducted a survey of 1,800 people around the world who were either a part of past or ongoing IoT transformation efforts. The results revealed that completed projects were only considered a success 26% of the time. And 60% of projects encountered serious roadblocks during the proof-of-concept step or afterward.

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There are a few caveats worth noting. Cisco’s study did not completely focus on healthcare institutions. But the industry was well-represented in the composition of survey participants. The study also revealed that leveraging external partnerships was integral for those who did successfully implement IoT in their operations.

Above all else, the main lesson from this study was to exercise caution when rolling out IoT initiatives. Facilities and teams should start with small steps. And they should prioritize endeavors which play a prominent role in fulfilling their patients’ needs.

Too Much Data?

It’s no secret that data is the lifeblood of IoT. From New York City to Los Angeles, hospitals across the United States are eager to use their information for a variety of benefits: asset tracking, a reduction in patient waiting times, and proactive device maintenance – to name just a few.

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But many healthcare organizations aren’t aware of the obstacles they’ll encounter when trying to capture and harness the immense amount of data needed to make these advantages a reality. By 2025, healthcare is expected to generate more data than any other industry.

To be able to support this mountain of information, providers should realize that utilizing IoT means needing to invest in their data storage capabilities as well. This gets more convoluted when considering the fact that patient data, even from IoT devices, must be handled extremely carefully and meet any government regulations.

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Part of this responsibility also falls on the manufacturers of IoT devices. If they do not equip organizations with the ability to verify data integrity quality, we could be seeing some serious data breaches down the line. Speaking of which…

Cybersecurity Is a Serious Concern

For all the positive possibilities IoT presents, it also offers some serious safety concerns when it comes to healthcare. As facilities increase the number of ways they leverage IoT, they also increase the number of ways a hacker could infiltrate their system.

And unfortunately, hackers are very creative and resourceful. For example, a recent Zingbox study focused on how hackers can gain invaluable insight into how an IoT device operates simply by monitoring network traffic for error messages. By piecing this seemingly disparate information together, they can deduce factors such as the type of framework or web server being used, protocols being employed, and the database engine handling the information.

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Some IoT devices can even be induced to generate these telltale error messages! Once they’ve gathered all the necessary information, cybercriminals can wreak all sorts of havoc. Gaining access to the entire hospital system or making devices publish erroneous readings to change patient care all become possibilities.

Sounds scary, right? Well, luckily, there is a silver lining to Zingbox’s study. The company’s research also showed that IoT manufacturers, vendors, and healthcare providers are more willing than ever before to collaborate in the name of improving security. Still, any healthcare facility looking to implement IoT in 2019 should take all proper precautions to protect their networks from existing threats.

An Old Infrastructure Impedes Innovation

Outdated infrastructure is a common issue in healthcare. It also happens to be a big obstacle in the way of IoT innovation and implementation. While retrofitting can provide some new capabilities for an old infrastructure, it really only puts off the inevitable need for an upgrade when newer technology is released.

The effects of an obsolete infrastructure also trickle down to the staff quite fast. Tech talent is in high demand these days. This is no different for the healthcare sector. Hospitals are already having trouble hiring the staff necessary to make technological upgrades. And the older the infrastructure is, the harder this task becomes.

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Going forward, it isn’t enough anymore to upgrade a health facility’s infrastructure then set it and forget it. Providers must continually update their infrastructures for optimal operations, safer cybersecurity practices, and ultimately, better patient outcomes.

Proactive Attitudes Lead to Positive IoT Outcomes

While this post covers a number of IoT obstacles facing healthcare providers in 2019, it should not dissuade organizations from embracing this foundational technology of the future. Often, it becomes apparent that benefits to budgets, operations, and patient care far outweigh the risks when examining a potential IoT implementation from a holistic perspective.

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By being informed and cognizant of the challenges they may encounter when implementing IoT, organizations can take care of any risks well before they become substantial problems. And by doing so, they’ll be well on their way toward making their facilities a healthier environment for all stakeholders involved.

What health tech or IoT innovations are you most excited to see in 2019? Let us know in the comments!

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