The following is a guest blog post by Abbas Dhilawala, CTO of Galen Data.
The medical industry in the United States and around the world faces unprecedented challenges in 2019. An aging population, growing costs throughout the system, and frequent regulatory changes are just a few reasons why healthcare providers are increasingly adopting new technologies that can reduce costs and drive operational efficiency throughout the healthcare industry.
To that end, a growing number of connected medical devices are using the internet of things (IoT) to collect, analyze and transmit health data or images to internal hospital servers or cloud-based storage. While these innovative devices are slowly changing the paradigm of patient care and lowering costs throughout the system, med tech companies are still facing major barriers in the widespread adoption of connected medical devices.
Here are a few challenges associated with connected medical device platforms and the IoT, and how med tech companies can work to overcome those difficulties in the near future.
Improving Interoperability Between Connected Medical Devices
The technology companies that are building connected medical devices envision a future where wearable medical devices will instantly collect, analyze and transmit patient data to a central data repository where it can be used to update electronic health records and provide physicians with real-time information about patient wellness. One of the major obstacles here is interoperability – such a system would require a standard format for data and a common communication protocol that would allow all of these connected devices to transmit data to a single system.
Health plans, health care providers and medical technology vendors must work together to develop a consensus for interoperability standards that will facilitate more open exchange of data between authorized parties.
Address Growing Concerns over Cybersecurity
As connected medical devices proliferate through our world, it is becoming clear that medical technology companies need to take bigger steps to secure these devices and the data they collect against data breaches and malicious software attacks. Research from the Ponemon institute found that 70 percent of medical device manufacturers believe an attack on their medical devices is likely, but just 17% have taken significant steps to protect against this kind of attack.
We can look at data from recent years to estimate the results of poor security oversight in the world of connected medical devices. McAfee reports that the healthcare industry saw a 211% increase in cybersecurity incidents in 2017 compared to 2016. In the same year, 65% of all healthcare-related ransomware attacks were conducted by exploiting software vulnerabilities in connected imaging devices. However you measure it, the connected medical devices produced today aren’t sufficiently secure to be used in modern healthcare settings without the risk of compromising patient data.
Medical technology companies need to reduce the security risk posed by their devices by investing in improved security measures that reduce or eliminate software vulnerabilities. Medical technology companies should adopt a secure-by-design approach, even if it means adding hardware that increases the power consumption or cost of the product. Healthcare providers and patients need to trust that connected medical devices provide adequate protections for sensitive data.
Work to Fully Understand User Needs
The market for connected medical devices is expected to triple between 2018 and 2023, reaching a value in excess of $60 billion globally. As healthcare plans and providers move towards value-based payment models, the companies that build connected medical devices will have to demonstrate that their devices improve patient outcomes when compared to the alternative.
Manufacturers of medical devices must develop stronger ties to clinicians and patients that use their products and invest more resources in collecting evidence about the efficacy of their devices in improving outcomes for patients. In an outcome-based model, health plans will only want to pay for connected medical devices that create genuine value in the marketplace, and preference will likely be shown for devices that lead the way in software security.
Focus on Actualizing Real Benefits
As IoT medical devices become increasingly common in the marketplace, med tech companies must develop use cases that highlight the benefits they can deliver to early adopters. This includes efficiencies like the ability to transmit data wirelessly to health care providers, the potential to automatically update patient health records using data from wearables, easier access to data for physicians and health plans, and overall lowered costs of medical care.
Medical technology companies are working towards building the systems and functions that will usher in a more data-driven and patient-focused approach to health care. The most successful manufacturers will be the ones that gain industry support by delivering reduced costs and enhancing patient outcomes through repeatable use cases.
Connected medical devices stand to revolutionize the global healthcare industry, but there are still many challenges to overcome before IoT medical devices take over. Manufacturers of IoT medical devices must improve interoperability between systems to promote data sharing, address growing concerns over device security and generate evidence that their devices can meet user requirements and improve patient outcomes. Med tech companies that focus on creating real, demonstrable benefits for their customers will have the best opportunities to succeed as the healthcare IoT expands in size over the next five years.
About Abbas Dhilawala
Abbas has over 13 years of experience developing enterprise grade software for the medical device industry. He is well versed with technology and industry standards regulating security and privacy of data. His expertise lies in programming, cloud, cyber security, data storage and regulated medical device software.