The tech and medical industries joined forces in recent years to make healthcare better and smarter by utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT). So far, this relationship has brought us a number of notable developments. Smart monitoring devices allow doctors to monitor the health of patients for both treatment and prevention purposes. Telemedicine reduces hospital traffic by allowing patients to consult with their doctors from home. The digitalization of medical records has not only created databases of information for doctors to reference, but it gives rise to careers in related fields, with medical transcription training online now available through programs.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has created numerous opportunities to bring convenience and quality in medical care to new heights. It’s exciting. But are we so enchanted by recent borderline futuristic developments in the health sector that we overlook some of the obstacles that must be overcome before the medical industry can fully embrace the Internet of Things? Consider the following stumbling blocks of the IoMT.
Arguably the most significant challenge of the Internet of Medical Things is ensuring that the information sent from patients via medical monitoring devices to their doctors is secure. Because hospitals typically operate on private networks, security is not an issue within their own walls. However, patients relying on their own internet service would be susceptible to breaches in privacy. This is especially problematic because the information in question is protected under federal law. If the IoMT will ever be fully integrated into medical practice, this issue of security will need to be remedied.
I’ve mentioned that the digitalization of medical records led to the creation of medical databases. On its face, this development seems like a good thing. Doctors and patients only stand to benefit from ready access to the most extensive information, right? Perhaps, but this resource is a two-edged sword. Remember that managing massive quantities of information has been a challenge for plenty of companies outside the healthcare sector. It is often difficult to effectively differentiate between important data and unimportant data. I think this obstacle can exist in the medical industry as well.
For digitalization to help rather than hinder doctors as they make decisions regarding treatment and diagnosis, doctors must be given tools to help them recognize important trends and pieces of information in the midst of what could be a colossal cloud of data. It may take some time to figure out how to fully integrate this technology in a way that provides optimal assistance to doctors.
Over-reliance on technology
Without question, medicine is a high-stakes industry. Health and human lives are on the line. This is why the medical field has been hesitant to embrace the Internet of Things where other industries may have been more accepting of the move toward connectivity and automation. Such a shift could lead to complete dependence on technology for vital medical support. Consider some of the potential disasters that could come from the medical industry’s utter reliance on the Internet of Things.
Shifting our care to rely more on digitally connected devices both in home and on site at healthcare facilities could make the repercussions of “technical difficulties” very serious. For medical care to more fully incorporate the Internet of Things, healthcare providers must develop a safe backup procedure in case of a technical emergency such as a computer crash.
Now consider a similar challenge of over-reliance on medical technology: post-sale manipulations or changes. Suppose a patient or medical provider purchases a medical device that includes a company-sponsored subscription to lifetime support, monitoring or maintenance, as many devices may require. How would these services be affected if the company is acquired by another company, goes out of business or does not make good on its promise of service?
More importantly, how would an interruption in medical support services impact the patients who rely on these medical devices? This has already proven to be a problem in other industries. Perhaps the only remedy to this would be some form of regulation or even legislation holding medical device manufacturers to their word. Since this is still such a new frontier in the medical industry, we have yet to reach this milestone.
Rick Delgado is a technology commentator and writer. He writes for Business.com, CTOVision.com, SmartDataCollective.com and SandHill.com. Follow him on Twitter.