IoT in Healthcare: Opportunities and Challenges for Health Systems

By Mary Ermitanio, Manager, Manatt Digital

As part of Manatt Health’s digital health newsletter series, we discussed how digital health technologies can be used to achieve better health outcomes, increased patient loyalty and higher reimbursements for providers by improving patient engagement. Connected devices, including mobile phones, wearables and medical devices, can enhance the patient experience in multiple ways—from ensuring that a patient takes her medication on time to improving the accuracy of a diagnosis to adjusting the temperature in a hospital room.

The current view of the patient’s profile and history is summarized in electronic health records. This digitization of provider-generated patient data was, at one point, a disruption to hospital system workflows but is now widely adopted. The rise of the Internet of Things, with the massive volumes of patient-generated data that come with it, will be a much larger wave of disruption that the healthcare industry must prepare for. Organizations that strategically and operationally align themselves with the opportunity can benefit from the new wealth of patient insights and efficiencies created by integrating connected devices into the patient journey. Here are a few examples of the benefits of IoT:

  1. Patient lifestyle data can assist physicians in prescribing the right treatment. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in partnership with Medidata is using a combination of wearables and apps to study the impact of treatments on cancer patients.
  2. Remotely monitoring patient activity can cut costs by reducing unnecessary visits. Glucose monitors and vital signs sensors that patients use remotely can transmit critical data to caregivers, who can then offer advice virtually. Over time, the accumulation of patient data across devices can be used for prescriptive and predictive insights that enable caregivers to identify potential problems early on, improving preventive care.
  3. Ensuring adherence to and effectiveness of medication can improve health outcomes. Proteus Digital Health has created an ingestible sensor that when consumed sends data to the patient’s mobile device and to caregivers. More basic use cases of ensuring adherence include reminders and active patient logging via mobile apps. The data exchange–connected devices help create more engaged patients and proactive caregivers.

As with all industries with more access to consumer data than ever before, health organizations face significant, but not insurmountable, challenges in managing, interpreting and protecting patient data. Interoperability of disparate data sources must be addressed as more devices become connected and need to communicate with each other and with the organization. As patient data pours in, health systems must have the infrastructure, resources and processes in place to extract from it actionable insights that caregivers can use. Finally, with cyberattacks becoming an almost daily headline, health systems and their partners must invest in features and capabilities that will protect their networks.



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