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Barriers to IoT Medical Devices

March 27, 2019 by Luke James

The question of whether the IoT is revolutionising healthcare has long since been answered—IoT medical devices are completely changing the industry as we know it. Every new opportunity faces barriers and resistance, though, and IoT medical devices aren't immune from these.

When it comes to medical devices, healthcare, and the IoT, it's good and all having lots of tech solutions that can communicate with one another, extract valuable data, and make patients' lives easier. But, how do we manage these devices and all the data they produce? And not just that, how do we overcome some of the social resistance to them, too?

Given that there are now well over 500 million types of medical device in circulation around the world and that medtech companies have said that they expect almost 70 per cent of their devices to be IoT-enabled within the next five-or-so years, these are two questions that need an answer.

The Barriers and Challenges Facing IoT Medtech

The market value of connected medical devices is already far beyond $10 billion. As more devices that monitor, diagnose, and aid the treatment of patients come to market, the value of this market is expected to triple, if not quadruple, as we enter the next decade.

Alongside this growth, there are several barriers and challenges facing IoT medtech. While these challenges will not stifle growth, medtech companies and key figures within the healthcare industry should consider addressing them. By doing so, MedTech will be able to serve the end-user, the patient, more efficiently, accurately, and provide a higher standard of care.

These are just three of many such barriers and challenges.

Maintaining Cybersecurity and Securing Devices

Cybersecurity is the elephant in the room for medtech; however, it is a problem for all industries, not just medtech companies and producers of IoT devices.

Image courtesy of Epam.

Medtech companies are aware that attacks on their connected devices are possible and likely as more and more patients use them. The problem is that, right now, device designs are not security-led; their designs are primarily influenced by other factors such as ease of use with security features piled on top later.

Manufacturers should consider using an approach where design is security-led and devices are built from the bottom-up to be inherently secure as the primary goal.

Interoperability and Cross-Device Functionality

If medtech is to be taken full advantage of, interoperability is a key factor.

Can medtech devices share data and information so care teams can see a full picture? In most cases, they cannot; data collected from blood sugar monitors, for example, often do not send data anywhere save for the patient, and data from other devices will go to specialists handling a patient's ailment but not to their primary physician.

Unfortunately, because there are significant privacy and security concerns surrounding the exchange of health data—and also because there is no single accepted standard for systems containing electronic health records—manufacturers have little desire to make their devices interoperable.

Furthermore, it is difficult to track and maintain devices after they have left the hospital.

As it stands, there is room in the market for a platform that provides an ecosystem where the software and data from different medtech devices can communicate with one another and facilitate cross-device tracking.

Perhaps the best approach to tackling this problem is a unified platform based on open-data standards where clinical data can be securely shared.

Image courtesy of [x]cube LABS.

Building and Maintaining End-User Trust

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Similarly, you can provide the option for patients to use connected medical devices, but you cannot force them to—patients must be willing to share their health data, and this willingness hinges heavily on trust.

Today, the population is generally more aware of the risks associated with data breaches. If patients are not sure how their data is being used, stored, shared, and secured, they are more likely to resist connected medical devices. To facilitate wider adoption, medtech companies should place data protection front-and-centre of everything they do.

Trust from end-user patients needs to be earned if medtech is to be as successful as anticipated.

Preparing for the Future

The use of connected devices in healthcare is a growing trend that is here to stay. As the next few years pass us by, it will by far be one of the fastest growing areas of the IoT.

During this time, the key consideration for medtech manufacturers and healthcare industry actors should be to implement security-led design, systems, and procedures that will help control the devices that are hitting the market and build trust among end-user patients.

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