We recently published a blog post looking at the opportunity for the Internet of Things in Healthcare. It focused on the impact for healthcare organizations and how they might benefit from the transition from paper-based processes to digital processes.

Today, we are shifting our attention to the patient, looking at how IoT can improve patient care outside of the hospital, helping patients follow their doctor’s advice and maintain their health while at home.

I decided to turn to Ben Wilson, Citrix Evangelist for Healthcare Solutions, to get his insight into how the IoT can add value not just to the healthcare organization, but to the patients themselves.

Patient Health & the Internet of Things

Chris: Ben, in my last conversation with Christian Boucher we focused on the value the Internet of Things can provide to healthcare organizations. We thought that was a good place to start, since so much of the IoT hype is often on “cool” new user devices and not so much on the value it can provide to an organization. This seems to be particularly true in the health arena, with all kinds of buzz around wearables that claim to improve your health. Is there substance beneath the buzz? Do you think that these new devices help people maintain or improve their health?

Ben: Absolutely! I believe the largest opportunity for IoT in healthcare is around personal ,home-based and wearable devices. Consumers want to stay healthy and/or manage any conditions they have. For them, there is tremendous opportunity for healthcare providers to invest in empowering consumers to manage their own health rather than paying down the road when their condition becomes more acute and they end up in the ER or admitted to the hospital. Wearables focused on wellness—including fitness trackers like the Fitbit or Garmin or smart watches like the Apple Watch or the Basis Peak—help consumers to track physical activity, heart rate, sleep and perspiration.

Using IoT to Facilitate Sharing Patient Health Information

Chris: Much of the emphasis with many of these new wearables and devices is on helping users take care of their own health. But how practical is it for these users to then provide that information to their healthcare provider?

Ben: That is the big question: does it makes sense for consumers to share this information with their healthcare providers? As the cost of data storage and analytics goes down, can algorithms help alert providers about changes in sleep or physical activity that might help prevent a decline in health status? Can changes in behavior such as sleep or activity be detected by monitoring populations of patients and lead to an avoided a hospitalization or death?

Chris: That is something we touched on in the last blog post; it will be increasingly possible for healthcare organizations to take advantage of data flowing in from multiple sources to improve patient care. But regardless of the feasibility of sharing this information, does it make sense for all users to share their personal health information gained from these new wearables and devices with their healthcare provider?

Ben: It probably makes more sense for clinicians to track data from patients at high risk of a hospitalization or mortality. With changes in reimbursement, remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure (CHF), diabetes or asthma has become much more prevalent. Innovations in wireless IoT devices, such as pulse oximeters, blood glucose meters, smart weight scales and peak flow meters enable patients to cost effectively and safely be monitored from homes.

Patient Health & the Internet of Things- Cautions

Chris: That makes sense, that higher risk patients would benefit the most from sharing their information. However, what challenges and concerns do you see that could get in the way from his happening in the near term?

Ben: Managing and acting on all of this data is one challenge. Clearly managing their highest-risk patients is a big priority for clinicians, but the data can be overwhelming and clinicians are apprehensive about being responsible for acting on this exponential increase in the volume of patient data. This has created an opportunity for third parties to manage this data for hospitals and medical groups and then bring them into the workflow as required.

Beyond the challenge of turning mountains of data into actionable information for clinicians, security is a concern. As we turn from wellness data to clinical data, security becomes a clear imperative. Also, as we move from wearables to implantable devices, the harm that could be caused by malware or another intrusion mechanism could be fatal.  It is important to establish a new set of security policies focused on IoT, especially for wearables and implantables. Since patient adoption is critical, they must be assured that their privacy will be protected when sharing such personal data.

Chris: I definitely agree. I think the challenge for IoT in most industries will be securely managing the flow of information between users, devices, sensors, apps and thing; and then gaining valuable insights from all of that information. Something we have talked about previously when discussing what the concept of the Integration of Everything means for the Digital Business.

I’d like to thank Ben for sharing his insights into how the Internet of Things may benefit and impact healthcare, in particular the potential impact to patients. The intersection of the IoT and healthcare is an area we are paying close attention to. If you are in the healthcare industry, we invite you to begin a dialog with us. Start a conversation with a Citrix researcher about the intersection of IoT and Patient Health or about another healthcare IT issue by clicking here.

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