What to understand about health care IoT and its security

As we have seen, the Internet of Things will disrupt and change every industry and how actors within it do business. Along with new paradigms in services and products that one can offer due to the proliferation of IoT, come business risks as well as heightened security concerns – both physical and cyber. In our prior column, we spoke about this topic in the context of the Smart Electric Grid. Today we’re taking a look at how IoT is disrupting the health care market and how we can take steps to secure it.

IoT projects in health care

Let’s first look at how IoT is being used within the health care industry – after all, IoT is simply a technological concept, not an end product or process. According to a recent Gartner report (“Market Insight: Healthcare IoT in 2018 — Sell to CEOs and Set Realistic User Expectations”) most IoT deployments in healthcare are what is called internal implementations – for use within a health care facility and organization, versus external use such as for purposes related to management of outside vendors, communications with third parties, etc. Workforce and patient tracking for productivity and efficiency enhancement are the primary use-case. A great example is tracking bracelets given to doctors, nurses and patients, along with readers that capture the position of these within a medical building, or at a given medical station. This helps capture data on say, the amount of time a patient spent in a waiting room, or the time a doctor spent in front of a terminal. This can then be used to improve patient workflows or reduce wait time – and can lead to a direct cost reduction per patient.

There has been a lot of focus recently on improving in-house medical care, especially in the field of elder care or geriatrics. There are various newer products that use a combination of trackers – proximity, weight, sound and vibration – to capture a person’s general movement within a house. Over time the data is used to create a model of one’s expected behavior and movement within a home, throughout the day. This can then be actively monitored. If an anomaly is detected – for instance a fall, or someone is unable to get up from their bed at the right time, medical staff can be alerted. The appeal of these connected sensors is that they are non-intrusive. No cameras are placed within the home and patients aren’t required to wear a bracelet, arm band or other body tracking device.

Finally, one great example I’d like to mention that is directly related to medical health is a product called the EVA bra. This bra has several biosensors that detect skin temperature and then send it to a smartphone app. This data is then analyzed to see if the recorded temperature is above the norm, which happens due to increased blood flow – a sign indicating the possibility of a tumor. Still undergoing clinical trials, this is a great novel application of a connected device helping to combat disease.

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