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How IoT is transforming the healthcare industry (Part 2)

October 19, 2017

Tim Sherwood   

Blog contributor

In part one of this blog I discussed the need for healthcare providers to think globally and act collaboratively across ecosystems. In part two we will look deeper into the factors that will enable a more connected and reliable healthcare experience.

Connected healthcare experiences for everyone

Today’s connected consumers – and patients – increasingly expect their healthcare provider to offer them a similar digital experience as they are accustomed to when it comes to managing their finances through online banking, or ordering goods online. Patients want real-time data on their health and the ability to communicate with their doctor or nurse whenever, wherever. More and more clinics are already offering appointments via self-service portals, and alerts through simple application-to-person (A2P) messaging to remind patients of their appointment. Given the pervasive nature of SMS, there is scope for healthcare providers to extend the use of A2P messaging to, for example, remind their elderly patients to take their medications too. Furthermore, the increasingly sophisticated nature of IoT-enabled healthcare devices means that we’re only starting to scratch the surface of the potential of remote healthcare provision and monitoring.

However, healthcare organisations don’t simply need to start providing their patients with a seamless experience, they also need to consider how best to interact with partners too. Hospitals, diagnostic labs, consultants, researchers – they should all expect an omni-channel experience to deliver the best possible service. For instance, a hospital porter should be able to identify in-patients and portable medical scanners immediately, all through a mobile app. Furthermore, all parts of the healthcare ecosystem – hospitals, research facilities, pharmaceutical companies, clinics and patients – should be able to communicate and work together more easily, with a more seamless flow of information (with the patient’s consent of course). This is one sector where the customer simply can’t be kept waiting, so reliable connectivity to enable this better communication and information flow is a must-have.

That’s not to say connectivity doesn’t come with its own challenges. Patient data is critical, yet connectivity could introduce a security risk. Organisations may also find it difficult to scale solutions as demand fluctuates. That’s why they have to make sure they’re choosing the right partner for their infrastructure solutions.

Trustworthy and reliable

As they take advantage of digital transformation, healthcare providers are going to have to take positive steps to manage to risk. That means protecting patient records and other data and applications against external threats. It also means ensuring service continuity and zero disruption in the event of a breach: it is not inconceivable that cyber criminals start to target millions of IoT-enabled healthcare devices to stage huge attacks which could put people’s lives at risk.

That is why healthcare organisations need to adopt an adaptive security strategy. This means shifting from an ‘incident response’ mind set to a ‘continuous response’ mind set. Typically, there are four stages in an adaptive security life cycle: preventative, detective, retrospective and predictive. Preventative security is all about blocking attacks before they affect the organisation or make it more difficult for an attacker to wreak havoc, giving the organisation more time to disable the attack in process. The aim of the detective security layer is to reduce the time that attackers spends within the system, limiting the subsequent damage. Retrospective security is like a vaccine that protects you against diseases – it turns intelligence about past attacks into future protection. Predictive security plugs into the external network of threats, monitoring hackers underground to proactively anticipate new attack types.

If the move to new technology sounds risky, staying with the status quo is riskier still. Organisations have a simple choice: move forward, or get left behind.

A healthy transformation

It’s time for healthcare providers to offer a cross-border service, with a global network infrastructure and global connectivity. Only an international partner that offers global mobile network access and connectivity agreements is going to meet the requirements to deliver services such as tele-medicine, remote diagnostics and eHealth services.

Harnessing the opportunities unleashed by the IoT can help to boost efficiency and productivity, and ensure that organisations stay competitive. By enhancing the patient experience, healthcare providers will enhance their reputation too.

Read one of my previous blogs on the growing pains that come with the Internet of Things.