A new survey from analytics and AI software provider, Nyansa, based on a survey of Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Technology (AEHIT) members, reveals the security challenges facing healthcare professionals as the Internet of Things (IoT) is rolled out in hospitals.

According to the report, the monitoring and management of wireless biomedical devices are now top priorities in healthcare organisations, in their quest to improve both productivity and the quality of patient care.

As connected biomedical technologies, such as electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) devices, imaging systems, and patient monitoring devices spread, hospitals and clinics are becoming increasingly reliant on their wireless networks.

Infusion pumps, wearable sensors, bedside telemetry monitors, ultrasound solutions, and Wi-Fi based communications systems are all part of an increasingly complex picture. As a result, IT professionals are assuming a larger role in managing both the devices and their network connections.

However, less than half of IT departments have visibility into, or control over, the IoT devices now accessing the network, says the report. As these devices proliferate, Wi-Fi quality becomes a growing safety and security concern.

The need for more detailed data analytics is “now critical for ensure the highest possible performance of these care-critical devices”, it says.

Security and patching are the two biggest ‘pain points’, according to 80 percent of healthcare IT leaders.

Meanwhile, security policy is emerging as a parallel challenge: 57 percent of organisations don’t have a policy on wired vs. wireless devices, which could result in safety risks.

Less than half of the healthcare organisations surveyed are pro­active in monitoring the performance of devices that are critical to patient safety, explains the report.

“AEHIT members care deeply about the care and safety of their patients,” said Barbara Sivek, chief operating officer of the AEHIT Foundation. “Wireless biomedical devices offer many benefits, but the interconnectedness of these devices also poses security challenges that need to be addressed to provide optimal care.”

While an analytics software provider could be seen as having a vested interest in pushing this line of enquiry, the big picture behind the Nyansa report is backed up by a recent analyst report on the market for healthcare wearables.

That report – Connected Wearable Devices in Healthcare: Wearables in Medical, Wellness, and Fitness Markets by Device Type, Body Area, Solution Type (Prevention, Monitoring, and Treatment), and Health Concerns 2019-2024, published on Researchandmarkets.com – finds that there is high demand in healthcare today for remote patient monitoring and diagnostics.

Contributing factors include healthcare cost inflation, coupled with rapidly ageing populations in developed countries (20 percent of US residents will be aged 65 or older by 2030, for example).

Among the report’s findings are that the market for wearable vital signs monitors will hit $980 million by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 22 percent. Meanwhile, the global smart skin patches market will reach $630 million in the same timescale, representing a CAGR of over 20 percent.
Wearables can transmit real-time information to doctors, nurses, and clinicians. As a result, remote data collection could enhance the operational efficiency of healthcare services, says the report, while the devices themselves could reduce the need for human intervention, enabling context-based automation.

However, core areas of concern are patient data security and privacy, as well as the opportunities for advanced data analytics, confirms the report.

There is also a market for the ‘quantified self”, it adds. This refers to the DIY use of wearables to enable people to manage their own fitness and health.

Not mentioned in the report is the challenge that a culture of personal health management has yet to take off in the US payer- and insurance-focused health service. However, it is emerging among insurance providers there, in an effort to reduce their own risk and gather more data about policyholders.

  • While patient safety, data privacy, and network security are paramount in the connected world, care providers face their own security challenges: the risk of harm and physical attack in hospitals.

Accordingly, HID Global has this week announced the release of its BEEKs Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) Duress Badge Beacons.

If they are threatened with harm, staff can simply press the back of their badge to instantaneously trigger an alert to security teams, which identifies them and their location.

The beacons are the latest addition to the HID Location Services IoT platform.

Be part of a discussion and connect with like-minded leaders in your sector at our forthcoming trade event – The Sensor Show – next year.