IoT Health-Care: A shot of…

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IoT Health-Care: A shot of…

The value of the IoT health-care sector is set to surpass $136 billion by 2021. As the prospect of truly connected health care becomes a reality, which digital services should hospitals be looking to adopt to better serve patients – and are they prepared for the impact on existing networks and systems?

by Nicole Hill

Care providers are under pressure to deliver high standards of care to larger volumes of patients – at a time when many health-care services across the world are being squeezed financially. Patients expect rapid diagnosis and, increasingly, access to health services even while outside hospital or clinical boundaries. This is made possible through the widespread use of mobile devices and wearable health tech which can provide on-demand feedback on condition or fitness. So, how can clinicians do more, for less money, without the introduction of thousands of extra staff? Technology holds part of the answer.

IoT Health-Care: Nicole Smith

Nicole Hill is director of the Healthcare Sector at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.

Industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, and the public sector are already embracing greater digitization and automation – whether this is connecting status sensors to machinery for automatic maintenance scheduling or meeting day-to-day personal requests through an AI chatbot. With a fully connected approach and a resilient, scalable backbone – key for critical health monitoring applications – health care can start to exploit real digital transformation, driving new efficiencies and improving patient health outcomes.

IoT Health-Care: More digitization, more data

As the cost of deploying IoT devices continues to fall, hospitals are increasingly able to connect different areas of the health-care ecosystem, linking together previously isolated systems and siloed data.

Devices as varied as pacemakers and ventilators to insulin pumps now have some form of connectivity, while wearable health and fitness tracking devices are also generating large amounts of data. This presents an opportunity for hospitals to harness data for greater accuracy in diagnosis, treatment delivery, and further personalization of the patient experience.

This digital transformation of health care doesn’t stop at simply connecting existing devices. Many hospitals are digitizing existing patient records and other paper-based documentation as part of a wider push towards improving workflows by creating a “paperless hospital.” But all these digital transformation efforts can reap many more health-care benefits. All this data can not just be processed but analyzed to generate valuable patient and diagnosis insights – another job we can turn to technology for.

AI and automation are easing staff workloads

Once portrayed as a futuristic technology, artificial intelligence is redrawing the way hospital staff generate, compile, and action medical records and other health data. By automating generic or recurring tasks, AI will help rescue clinicians from excess “red tape,” freeing more time to spend with patients. Advanced AI solutions for the healthcare sector are making their way into hospitals and delivering broad benefits for clinicians and patients alike:

  • In the UK, the National Health Service has collaborated with Google DeepMind Streams, an analysis and diagnosis application for acute kidney injury that will lay the groundwork for a fully AI-powered solution.
  • An AI-powered virtual nurse is being trialed in the US and UK, allowing patients to check in and report any symptoms from their conditions that will then be shared with doctors for a follow-up video appointment.
  • AI is also being used to enhance the knowledge of pathologists from Harvard identifying the presence of cancer in biopsies, raising the detection rate to 99.5 percent.

When combining the back-office efficiency savings generated from AI handling patients’ records and hospital data with the rapid diagnosis of conditions to assist clinicians, it is clear that AI and wider machine learning solutions will play a critical role in the health-care ecosystem of the future. Although digitization and automation of back-office processes are helping staff spend more time attending to the needs of patients, constant mobile communication is an absolute necessity for staff to collaborate with colleagues, respond to patient emergencies, and optimize workflows. Gone are the days of doctors only being accessible through a pager – CPaaS solutions such as ALE Rainbow™ offer the capability to integrate specific healthcare applications and workflows into the core collaboration service.

Collaborative health care on the move

By rolling out secure Wave 2 Wi-Fi throughout the hospital, we can guarantee continuous availability and a high-quality user experience for both staff and patients. Health-care facilities should also look to adopt a secure mobile platform for clinicians to collaborate on, share patient files, and receive emergency calls. The high degree of programmability of these platforms allows existing systems to be integrated into the same platform using open APIs, such as nurse calls, alarm notifications, and alerts in the event of a patient deteriorating.

IoT Health-Care: Healthcare Development

Healthy development: As the cost of deploying IoT devices continues to fall, hospitals are increasingly able to connect different areas of the healthcare ecosystem.

With the introduction of secure and resilient mobile communications, hospitals can move towards tele medicine and remote care, providing video consultations and appointments for patients who may struggle to regularly travel for care; this can benefit in particular citizens living in remote areas and the elderly or disabled. Offering these virtual appointments helps continue the care pathway beyond patient discharge, ensuring a quality patient experience and access to expert support at every stage of assessment, treatment, and recovery.

Recent security breaches in the news – ranging from Equifax to Yahoo – have compromised the details of millions of consumers worldwide and pushed data protection to the top of the agenda. Regardless of the vital services they provide, hospitals are not immune from today’s data protection requirements.

Health care is due for a compliance check-up

Health-care providers should ask themselves: is patient data being used correctly, is it being protected? Are electronic medical records secured, only accessible to relevant staff, and fully compliant with data protection best practices?

Health care is a particularly high priority target to hackers due to the huge amount of sensitive data stored, ranging from full medical history to payment details, address, and date of birth. This could be data theft, or ransomware – a recent Beazley report found that 45 percent of all ransomware attacks targeted the health-care sector.

All this data can not just be processed but also analyzed to generate valuable patient and diagnosis insights.

To combat this, hospital IT departments must ensure they operate a fully secure network and control access to specific systems and applications – for example, creating different permissions for visitor Wi-Fi and clinician network access. Devices and equipment requesting network access should be identified, profiled, and assigned suitable access rights before being “set loose” on the network. IoT devices offer a new angle of attack for unauthorized access into healthcare networks, especially if left unsecured, or rolled out quickly without careful consideration. By developing an IoT security strategy, such as the IoT Containment approach offered by ALE in which the hospital network is divided into virtualized segments without direct access to unrelated systems on the network, it eliminates the prospect of a security threat spreading to other areas of the network and compromising patient data. Connected health care is no longer just a trend – it is an inevitability as hospitals look to meet the needs and expectations of today’s patients. Connected devices – helping health care get personal As services and applications are increasingly linked, we can begin to picture how a typical hospital visit may unfold. A patient is admitted to hospital and the assigned clinician is able to immediately access full historical medical records on their secure mobile device. Once scans are completed, an AI-powered application analyses the results and aids diagnosis – sharing a recommended course of treatment. After consulting with colleagues via a mobile collaboration platform, the clinician is able to action this treatment and offer personalized patient care and advice throughout the care pathway. Care providers are set to benefit from further developments such as location-based services for wayfinding, asset tracking, and staff location. But health-care facilities must first lay the infrastructure of a secure, easily scalable network to take advantage and reduce risk.

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