Digital healthcare is becoming increasingly important as healthcare providers strive to achieve the “Triple Aim” objectives of improved patient experience, improved population health and lower costs.

Digital healthcare is an ecosystem, optimized to align with the needs of practitioners, staff and — most important — the patient population. It’s made up of interconnected, interoperable physical and digital assets, including IT, operational technologies, health technologies and other systems.

Contributing to the digital technologies in these hospitals is the growing crop of Internet of Things devices, whose embedded sensors capture, produce and share data. In fact, by 2020, according to MarketResearch.com, 40 percent of IoT deployments will be healthcare-related, capturing more market share than any other IoT segment.

Isolate the Problem You Want to Solve

Digital healthcare IoT initiatives stand on three legs, each one dependent on the others.

The first leg requires stakeholders to identify the business problem they expect to solve through an IoT project and how they’ll apply technology to the effort. Ultimately, digital healthcare aims to improve patient experience, deliver better population health and reduce the cost of care. As they consider IoT projects, decision-makers should determine whether a project advances these goals and if its costs are justified.

Business justification for an IoT initiative comes down to the expected patient and cost benefits. Digital healthcare providers can reduce the cost of care by better utilizing their assets, as well as by collecting patient data, applying analytics and predictive modeling, and delivering healthcare proactively, which simultaneously improves patient outcomes.

For example, a hospital that has implemented a patient home monitoring system with integrated analytics tools may collect data from a glucose meter used by an at-home patient with diabetes. The system alerts a nurse practitioner to a worrisome glucose level trend. He or she may intervene, preventing an event that would result in a visit to a physician (or worse, a trip to the emergency room). Avoiding such an event, which could easily result in vascular damage, is a desirable outcome that’s achieved through the use of a decision support system — and at a much lower cost than monitoring conducted by humans.

Meanwhile, the patients are more satisfied with their care because they avoid a medical problem and grow more comfortable with the knowledge that they’re being assisted with the management of their disease. The experience is further improved because patient’s relationships with the provider grow to be more trusting and effective.

Prioritize Infrastructure and Security

The second leg concerns the hospital’s wired and wireless network infrastructure and the strength of its security posture. IoT won’t be effective unless a healthcare provider’s network infrastructure can support the increased traffic flow.

Further, hospital IT departments must be able to expand security technologies to cover IoT devices. As they move forward, they need to consider the existing infrastructure and security, as well as policies and practices. They must also plan how they’ll upgrade to automated, easily managed network solutions.

Healthcare providers suffer more than their share of cyberattacks, including ransomware. While ransomware attacks are serious, the inability to access patient records for a period will pale in comparison if a cyberattack hits an IoT or telemetry network that monitors, analyzes and reports on patient vitals.

Strive for Interoperability Across Health IT Systems

Interoperability is IoT’s third leg. The healthcare industry is saddled with silos of data, and successful IoT initiatives rely on the ability of IT teams to integrate disparate systems.

Interoperability issues plague all technology deployments and often raise issues about budget and cost. Ultimately, digital hospitals must decide whether an IoT system in which patient data automatically flows into electronic health records delivers the return on investment necessary to start the project.

Planned and implemented properly, such efforts can deliver considerable return on investment. Whatever the healthcare IoT project under consideration, it needs to be part of a well-plotted, holistic IoT roadmap that can carry a provider into the future.

To learn more about how your organization can gain the benefits of IoT systems, read “Harnessing Data for Digital Transformation.”

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