Why is the healthcare sector struggling to adopt IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector.
With smart sensors and devices, it was envisioned that simple routine tasks would be automated, gathering vital information will be made seamless, while real-time monitoring will enable accurate diagnosis, and subsequently, much-improved prognosis.
The increased automation and processes will not only result in reduced human errors but will also free up healthcare professionals to provide better, more meaningful care to their patients.
However, like all emerging technology, the adoption of IoT within the healthcare industry is not as straightforward as one would like and is mired with challenges.
Each different stakeholder; vendors, healthcare providers, and the IT team face various issues to realize the transformative promise and potential of IoT for the industry.
Vendors confined by regulatory hurdles
Healthcare industry across the globe is one of the most strictly regulated sectors and to get a product through, vendors must jump through multiple hoops.
And getting past the regulatory hurdles process may take months to years, depending on the complexity of the product or technology.
For example, Singapore’s Health Product Act stipulates that any medical devices must be registered with its Health Sciences Authority before they can be sold in the country.
The body then evaluates the applications and conducts thorough audits and check, before approval and continues to monitor the product, during the post-market phase.
This type of regulatory practice is not different from the US’ Federal Drug Agency or the EU’s Medical Device Directives and could be the reason why the healthcare industry everywhere is generally slow in adopting new technology.
Diverse devices create IT nightmare
A typical IT team at a hospital or a healthcare facility are already dealing with numerous connected devices that are part of the building management system, for power, HVAC and lighting management.
But, medical IoT devices add another layer of complexity to the mix. As they’re strictly regulated, software and firmware updates also need approvals from the relevant agencies. This means multiple correspondence seeking and justifying requests to just to install additional security patches, for instance.
Further, some of the devices aren’t as sophisticated to adhere to the security protocols and measure, which leaves the hospital’s network vulnerable to breach. A quick workaround could be increased network segmenting or deploying a VPN.
Benefits aren’t clear-cut
Meanwhile, doctors aren’t spared from the challenges of adopting IoT either. Due to the regulations, and privacy policies, these devices that generate patient data must be managed carefully to be compliance.
Already overworked, doctors are reluctant to bring onboard IoT devices that add another task to their to-do list, especially when the benefits of these devices do not justify their costs or resources.
And thus, for more broader adoption within the healthcare industry, there is a need for change.
While regulations are essential, specifically within the realm of healthcare, it should not restrict innovation within the industry.
Regulatory bodies instead need to collaborate with healthcare providers and vendors and foster a culture of knowledge sharing so that laws and policies are updated regularly so that doctors can tap into emerging technologies to enhance patient care.