IoT in Healthcare – a Cause for Concern?
In the Internet of Things (IoT), core advantages of improving efficiency, productivity and reducing costs are virtues to be shared across industries. From wearables that track patient biometrics to hospital sensors that track equipment, IoT application in healthcare is vast. However, numerous challenges that exist may lead to serious consequences. Raising the questions as to whether IoT is more of a cause for good or concern?
For physicians, IoT enables the ability to track patent health more effectively – from tracking treatment plans and awareness of any immediate medical attention, to enabling healthcare professionals to connect more proactively. Hospitals can benefit from IoT in monitoring patient data. For asset deployment and management, monitoring medical equipment through sensors means hospitals can use oxygen pumps, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment more efficiently. The application of IoT devices in healthcare isn’t just limited to hospitals but has huge applications within patient homes.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices allow for both patients and doctors to track an individual’s health at home, to prevent unnecessary and costly trips to the physicians. A common example of RPM devices includes continuous glucose monitors that notify diabetes patients to take their insulin, allowing physicians to monitor the disease, and digital blood pressure monitors that enable patients to remotely send physicians their bloody oxygen and pressure levels.
RPM adoption is growing rapidly. The RPM systems market is projected to be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027 – 128% more than what the current market represents.
Though the health and economic benefits of IoT within healthcare are clear, so are the potential problems of its adoption. Though potentially a long-term gain, cost proves to be one of the greater challenges when planning device deployment. Additionally, it is difficult to aggregate data for vital insights and analysis. IoT collects data in bulk. To properly analyse the data, it must be segregated in chunks without overloading with precise accuracy for better results.
However, a major problem of IoT adoption centralises around data security and privacy. Though IoT devices capture data in real-time, a large amount of them lack adherence to data standards and protocols. Data stored within IoT-enabled devices are prone to data thefts, making them more susceptible to cybercriminals. Once they hack into one device, the rest is of the network is vulnerable.
In March 2019, almost 1 million people in the US had their medical files exposed in data breaches, according to HIPAA Journal. According to the 2022 State of Healthcare IoT Device Security Report from Cynerio, 53% of internet-connected medical devices analysed were found to have a known vulnerability, while one-third of bedside devices were identified to have a serious risk.
The positive applicability of IoT within healthcare is clear, with an abundance of health-related and economic benefits. However, as the surge of IoT medical devices in hospitals and at home increases, as do their attack surfaces and damage costs. A stronger approach is needed to mitigate attacks is needed. Making companies more aware of their IoT risk, which aligns with our mission at Iotabl.