The Internet of Things continues to impact the healthcare landscape, particularly when it comes to new medical devices. However, with these new technologies and the overall push for upgrading medical devices, there’s also a need for greater security throughout the industry.
In addition to security, hospitals and health systems are focusing on the patient experience, data management automation, and clinical workflow integration. Let’s dig deeper into a few of these topics and see how medical devices are poised to impact the care process.
Prioritizing Device Security
The healthcare industry is focused on collecting as much patient information as possible to ensure a better patient experience. However, in tandem with that focus, there must also be a focus on medical device security. Otherwise, health systems could be at risk for attacks that could leak important patient medical records or give a hacker access to a provider’s network.
The increased risk is due in part to the IoT, where medical devices must be able to wirelessly transmit important and private data. However, device security can’t be addressed in a bubble. Health systems should approach the issue holistically, creating a cyber defense that also accounts for patient safety, biomedical engineering, and the supply chain.
Any time new medical devices are integrated into health systems, they should be assessed for any possible security and privacy risks. Having an upfront strategy that can continuously adapt is the key to prevention.
It’s not enough to simply implement next generation medical devices. Healthcare companies must have a thorough understanding of the data generated by the medical devices they are implementing. Understanding how the data is being captured, how it’s accessed, and what is and isn’t being used will prove to be very important.
In a fast-paced industry, collecting and using this data in real time is a necessity. If a patient needs care immediately, but relevant data isn’t entered into the EHR for a few more hours, it loses its value. Real-time capture and use of patient data are the keys to ensuring patients receive better quality of care.
Another goal health systems have is getting more out of these new technologies. Having access to hundreds of patient parameters that are automatically sensed by medical devices is of little value if care teams don’t make full use of the information.
Expanding the Patient Experience
In order to provide better experiences for patients, care teams need to consider all aspects of patient care. This includes physical and emotional needs, comfort, and empowering them with a sense of control.
Medical devices need to be geared toward improving patient comfort, and some should have patient-facing controls for easy access. Hospital beds, for example, should have intuitive controls that give patients a semblance of power over their environment. This convenience might seem minor, but it can have a huge impact on how a patient views their hospital stay. Keeping patients connected, preserving their dignity, and minimizing discomfort all go a long way toward improving the patient experience. Designing devices that handle these things automatically will also lead to enhanced outcomes.
Health Data Value
With newer medical devices and technologies creating a wealth of healthcare data, health systems are beginning to realize the value of said data. Though patients are the true owners of their own data, healthcare providers may begin to exert a sort of quasi-ownership.
The realization that all this data has a ton of value has health systems reacting in a number of ways. They don’t want to share their data for a few different reasons. Some might say that the data cannot leave their region or country. Some might say that they don’t trust others to properly manage the privacy of shared data. Another reaction is to want payment for the data.
While all of these reactions are common, experts predict they will not be sustainable reactions. As next generation medical devices continue to emerge and data is collected, the ways health systems share data may change significantly.
At the moment, medical device designers are focused on improving the quality of devices, even if the results are very small improvements. However, despite consumer devices not exactly measuring up to medical devices, they are often good enough for medical applications. Designers might be frustrated to see users choose the lower quality devices in many situations.
Traditional thinking is that consumer devices are not good enough to perform the same tasks as medical devices, but that’s proving to not be true. Though frustrating to designers, it could cause them to rethink designs. Perhaps medical devices have become over-designed in some respects. While it remains to be seen how designs will be impacted, the designers have plenty to consider.