Just about every industry imaginable has been impacted by the rapid advancement of technology over the past few decades. The Healthcare industry is no exception, although it has been a bit slower to embrace the digital revolution than others. The marriage of innovative technologies and data utilization, with a helping hand from governmental legislation, has created an environment where healthcare providers are all but forced to join the revolution. This digitization of healthcare is now being labeled as “The Internet of Medical Things”.
While manufacturers and software companies race to develop the next big thing, there are challenges along the way. One barrier to universal adoption of end-to-end digital solutions in healthcare is a lack of uniformity across technology systems. Without clearly defined parameters for usage, disparate platforms, interconnectivity issues, etc., it seems that modern medical technologies are developed in their own vacuum, leading to confusion, redundancy, missed opportunities, and waste. The naysayers that are resistant to the digital revolution seize upon these barriers and further impede the cultural shifts necessary to go “all-in” on this so-called “Internet of Medical Things”.
The challenges notwithstanding, advancements in technology, data utilization, and analysis have been staggering. Wearable technologies are providing critical data points to care teams without the need to meet face-to-face. Not only is data being used to monitor, diagnose and treat patients, but the aggregation of this information is creating opportunities for longer-term benefits. As reams of data are collected into databases, it is available for real-time analysis revealing any number of trends, potential threats, and even emerging health issues. For example, predictive modeling software can present a physician with historical results of treatment plans in similar presenting patients. Other predictive data analysis will take into account an individual’s genetic makeup, lifestyle and environment data, and compare it to thousands of other similar individuals to predict potential illnesses and pre-determine the best treatments.
The emergence of connected technologies has created an untold number of opportunities to improve patient care and related outcomes. One aspect of the expanding reliance on data and technologies is concern over cyber security. Vulnerabilities to hacking are not exclusive to provider networks and databases, the medical devices themselves are at risk of being breached or open to virus attack. Cyber-attacks on medicinal delivery systems could pose a serious threat to patients and potentially lead to a life-threatening situation. Security and IT industry experts are behind the curve in relation to data security associated with medical device technology. Initially, the rush was to design and deliver the systems with a relative lack of focus on building the requisite security components necessary to protect the integrity of the data. In response to growing cyber concerns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided medical device manufacturers and healthcare facilities with guidelines for managing cyber security threats.
Digital reliance within the healthcare industry will continue to drive double-digit growth of technology solutions well into the next decade. As medical data management systems and security progress, and advancements continue to be made in wearable and other device technologies leading to improved patient outcomes, the digitization of healthcare will only continue to expand. Data empowers the patient to ask the right questions and play an active role in their health care. Data also allows providers to engage in collaborative solutions, thereby reducing costs and leading to continued improvements in patient care. The healthcare industry is experiencing the dawn of a brave, new digital world and by any measure, the best is yet to come.
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