A Digital Revolution: What the IoT Means for the Future of Health Care

Through a range of new devices and a security-minded approach, the Internet of Things can help launch a customer-centric health-care ecosystem.
By Michael Ely

Prescription drug monitoring: Makers of prescription drugs are already using IoT technologies to monitor the integrity of their prescriptions. AdhereTech is one company placing sensors on pill bottles. The bottles are monitored prior to arriving at a pharmacy, in order to ensure that they have not been tampered with. Imagine if the monitoring continued into a patient's home? Alerts could be issued to patients who failed to take their medications as prescribed.

The key to getting patients on board with connected devices is to make those devices patient-controlled. A patient shouldn't have to wear a device at all hours of the day unless he or she wants to. That individual should be able to take it on and off at will and control the data being shared. Yet, accessibility to health-care devices raises some serious security issues, most recently exemplified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s findings on the vulnerability of the Hospira infusion pump. Health-care providers should work closely with manufacturers of such IoT-enabled devices to ensure that necessary security features are in place, as well as keep their patients informed and devices current with the latest security updates in order to keep their information safe.

Pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and other regulations, strict patient confidentiality rules must be applied to data collected by IoT devices or networks, just as they are already applied to patient data collected and shared over networks today. Stored patient histories must be encrypted, as must test results from any medical facility. With regard to IoT devices, patients should also have the ability to delete data that they no longer want to be made available, as well as control access to their information via confirmed consent, just as with any other medical data. In essence, there is no difference between data collected via the IoT and that collected at a medical facility.

For a consumer-focused health-care system, transformation is inevitable as tech-savvy consumers continue to demand a quick, personalized health-care experience. In fact, 67 percent of the health-care professionals that Aspect surveyed said they believe customer service delivery will change during the next two years more than it did throughout the last decade, while 70 percent reported that technology is the primary customer-service area in which investment will increase over the next year.

Technology is already driving patient interactions. We can now create content aggregators—collections of activity and sensory data pulled from IoT-connected devices, organized for easy retrieval, usability and action—for health-care practitioners to use as a resource for better managing customer experiences.

Creating a customer-centric health-care ecosystem is essential in a competitive marketplace, and the IoT provides a powerful foundation for optimized care practices and interaction between a patient and health provider.

Michael Ely is the VP of technology at Aspect, a software-as-as-service provider of customer interaction management and workforce optimization products. He leads the company's Enterprise Architecture team, pursuing cross-product research (including unified communications, mobility, cloud computing and virtualization models) and coordinating opportunities with key partners regarding concept discovery and development.

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