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Healthcare IoT: Overcoming Device Integration Challenges for Improved Patient Care

GettyImages-1030755674Internet of Things (IoT) devices are rapidly altering how healthcare professionals administer patient care.  These devices are everywhere – they saturate our homes in the form of smart televisions and thermostats, and they’ve made their way to industrial workplaces via products like smart meters for energy consumption monitoring. Now, IoT has become an undeniable part of the healthcare sector, set to blossom into a $187.60 billion market by 2028.

One of the most important parts of the IoT market is figuring out how to integrate these devices into patient care properly. We’ll explore the impact of IoT devices in healthcare and break down the biggest challenges of IoT device integration both now and in the future.


How IoT Devices are Changing the Healthcare Landscape

Internet connectivity is a virtual must in all areas of life. When it comes to healthcare, it bridges the gap between illness and accessible diagnostics/treatment. In the wake of COVID-19, healthcare has gone largely digital, with many providers offering low-cost telemedicine options and enhanced, drone-powered delivery methods for key items like medicine and healthcare administration tools.


IoT Device Integration: Main BENEfits

Some of the most common IoT devices for preventative care are wearable items, like smartwatches. These products can record your everyday activity and alert you to significant changes in your health, such as your heart rate. The collection of data eliminates the need for extended supervision in a healthcare facility, allowing patients to go about their normal lives with little interruption. It also eliminates certain variables that may affect diagnoses, like the stress of being in a hospital or increased exposure to airborne illnesses.

In-home devices can examine external factors and ongoing health issues, such as a patient’s sensitivity to rapidly changing weather conditions. Devices that monitor your blood pressure in alignment with atmospheric pressure changes and allow you to report mood or skin sensitivity changes can help providers figure out the best long-term solution for chronic, environmentally related issues.

Other IoT devices have intra-facility benefits that can decrease the burden on healthcare staff. Digital applications for organizing staff flow and patient appointments help track a hospital’s staffing needs, which in turn help figure out the most efficient doctor-to-patient ratio. Apps often contain a large database of information that multiple departments need to access - reducing the communication chain by drawing attention to a single, easy-to-navigate knowledge space.

The benefits of IoT devices extend far beyond operational efficiency. Both patients and healthcare employees have experienced lower costs for receiving and administering care. A reported 33% of medical providers have said IoT has dramatically lowered costs by addressing staffing issues, diagnostics capabilities, and transportation concerns. On the other hand, an even larger percentage of patients (42%) have said Internet-of-Healthcare-Things (IoHT) programs allowed them to spend less money on care. Treatment costs are lower, which helps patients get better faster.

However, IoHT isn’t perfect, and plenty of issues have yet to be fully remedied.


IoT Device Integration: Main Challenges

IoT device integration has been met with a few significant concerns. First, patients and providers have encountered data privacy issues due to a lack of secure connection. In fact, attempted data security breaches have occurred for 82% of healthcare groupsUnfortunately, IoT data security tends to come second to device development and usability. These devices are designed with simplicity in mind, so many may not be fashioned with the end-to-end encryption protection necessary for safe and efficient function.

Another challenge is the need for more IoT training for healthcare professionals. Improper management leads to misdiagnoses and increases the risk of security threats. IT departments aren’t always set up for success in this area, either. IoT development and integration require an increased need for consistent upkeep, review, and support requests for this new technology.  Because of this, IT departments can be vastly overworked, forcing healthcare facilities to increase their IT staff. As a result, healthcare facilities are pressed to raise operational costs despite insufficient funds .

Connectivity issues are a significant pain point for IoT integration as well. Since these devices must have a wireless connection, facilities must have the best WiFi possible to ensure a consistent connection. As we all know, WiFi is not foolproof – this connection can and will fail occasionally, and an adequate cellular connection is required. Raising yet another cost issue for healthcare organizations. It also requires connectivity monitoring and a fast cellular backup option that will not force IoT devices to remain inoperable for long.


The Importance of IoT Evolution and the Testing Process

As with any technology, IoT devices must be constantly updated to keep up with the rapidly changing healthcare sector. Comprehensive testing should occur before product rollout to prepare IoT devices for proper implementation and evolution. Healthcare administrators should have a hands-on approach to the device testing process before implementing any IoT device into everyday operations.

Connect with device makers and ask about their testing approach. What type of unit and integration testing methods have they explored prior to the product launch? What testing tools (i.e., stubs, fakes, and mocks) do they use to ensure functionality and usability? These are necessary questions to prevent operation fatigue and life-threatening user mistakes.


Final Thoughts

Any device you use in a healthcare facility or offer to patients for in-home care should have regular software updates that require little personal interaction. A part of seamless device integration is creating a product everyone can use!. Low-cost, accessible tech is the future of healthcare. Therefore, IoT integration is key for improving the patient experience and helping healthcare staff boost efficiency.


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About the Author: Miles is an independent writer with a background in business and a passion for tech, psychology, news, and simply helping people live happy and fulfilled lives. He has lived and traveled all over the United States and continues to expand his awareness and experiences. When not writing, he is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea.

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