IoT In Healthcare: Why We’re Excited, What Could Go Wrong, And How to Fix It

Internet of Things is everywhere – and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. If you don’t believe us, you might have to consider the body of research that estimates that we would have some 20 billion connected devices by the year 2020.

That’s billion with a ‘b.’ It is, thus, not interesting that this piece of technology has found its way into healthcare too – and we love how it is being used here.

Applications of IoT in Healthcare
With the advancement in connected devices, technology has come diverse applications for the healthcare industry too. Some of the use cases that we have found most useful are:

1. Sharing of patient data
Connected devices have been incorporated in such a way that they collect data about the patient in real-time and send them back over an internet connection to the physician in charge. This makes it possible for the physician to have access to data that they would not have otherwise been able to get on a single visit.

What that means is that such a physician now has actionable information at all times – helping to deliver a more streamlined and personalized form of healthcare to the patient. Likewise, the physician is able to keep an eye on their patients even when they are not in the hospital.

2. Administration of medicine
Connected units have been proven to offer remote assistance to doctors and patients, and in more ways than one. Instead of having a patient come in every time for, say, insulin injections, the physician can program a pump to do so automatically.

Likewise, it is important to check the sugar level of the patient so as to determine which is the best amount of insulin to administer. Fortunately, these connected devices can get that done too – and we are not forgetting the fact that they can be reprogrammed over the internet.

3. Cost savings
For both the healthcare industry and patients, connected devices bring massive cost savings onboard. On the one side, they ensure patients don’t have to come into the hospital every time when they could just have their information sent over the air. This greatly reduces the time and resources that the healthcare industry would have had to dedicate to such a patient.

On the other hand, attending to patients’ needs becomes better streamlined since doctors now have a better idea of what could be going on. That is made possible by all the information they have had at their disposal – cutting back on expenses for treatments that might not be tailored to the patient’s needs.

4. Alerts

Perhaps the biggest plus for patients is the alerts they stand to get from using IoT in their everyday lives. It is no news that a lot goes on in our bodies as we go about our everyday activities – and we don’t even know about half of them. However, these devices have been created to monitor certain data and vitals – so they will let you in on what’s happening before it becomes a problem at all.

This can be exemplified in one of the cases where an Apple watch saved someone’s life.
In this particular instance, the watch was responsible for telling the wearer that they had an irregular heartbeat, even though they felt they were okay. Unknown to them, three of their arteries were already blocked, and the fourth was functioning at way less than half of its capacity.

5. Remote Assistance
Above all others, connected devices make it possible for doctors to offer better remote assistance to patients. Emergency situations can be better solved now that doctors can be reached with smart mobile apps, no matter how many miles away they are.
Likewise, the doctors can use data available to them from the connected devices to make the diagnosis on the go, further helping the patient better than before.
In short, the possibilities of remote assistance are endless.

Considering the challenges of IoT in healthcare
For all the promises that IoT brings to the healthcare system, there are certain flaws that should thoroughly be addressed.

To start with, connected devices are at a high risk of exposure to hacks and manipulation due to the old hardware and software components most are built with. In other instances, the problem lies in the fact that they are mass-produced for the average, non-tech-savvy user. Thus, they lack what should have been basic security protocols.

This has given rise to the truth that these units can be hacked, hijacked, and manipulated by unauthorized individuals. Just imagine a pacemaker being held over the patient in ransom, or an insulin injection pump being reconfigured to deliver the wrong doses.

To make sure that is not an issue:
● Set strong passwords for your connected devices. Don’t keep using the default password that comes with it.
● Don’t plug your medical IoT devices into just about any device.
● Refrain from using them on public Wi-Fi networks due to their almost non-existent level of encryption.
● Even when using medical devices on your home network, we recommend layering your connection over a VPN for the best encryption and data privacy
● If you suspect any irregular activity, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Guest Post by Chris Jones, TurnOnVPN

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