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Connected medical devices present a number of opportunities in mature use cases in acute care settings and in emerging use cases such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM). Acute setting use cases will continue to grow due to advancements in wireless technologies and the increasing linkage of medical devices with electronic health record (EHR) systems. However, the development of emerging use cases such as telehealth and RPM, and long-term use cases such as personalized care and evidence-based medicine, face challenges. These include a lack of newer care models, security, patient data privacy, integration, and other lingering aspects such as reimbursement and regulation not keeping pace with technology. Industry stakeholders, including providers, vendors, and regulators, should address these challenges to realize the true potential of connected medical devices.

New care models, security, integration, and analytics are key to future growth

Healthcare providers should leverage connected medical devices to support innovative care models, which will optimize the use of expensive hospital resources. One example is adoption of lean care models using telehealth and RPM to deliver basic healthcare services in remote locations. This will reduce the need for secondary hubs in remote locations and will enable providers to maximize the use of expensive hospital resources in cities. The concept of virtual clinics using phone/webcam-based consultations is evolving in the US, with vendors such as Teladoc and Carena offering their own versions of telehealth solutions.

Security and privacy implications continue to constrain the growth of connected medical devices. Providers should approach security as a part of the overall IT framework and adopt industry best practices such as restricting access to authorized users using emerging technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN). The key message is to use specialized security solutions as a common gateway to different layers in the technology stack, such as medical devices, cloud, privileged accounts, and patient data.

As connected health rolls out, providers will witness growing complexity in the existing technology stack used in healthcare settings. Effective integration is vital to reduce complexities and optimize communication between different layers in the evolving technology stack. Healthcare providers should prioritize the performance of a network of medical devices over the performance of disparate medical devices. The adoption of a platform-based approach to build medical device connectivity, and the use of open and standardized interfaces, will improve interoperability and support for information from different sources.

Finally, data analytics will play a major role in deriving the maximum value from connected medical devices. As more and more devices get connected, the obvious consequence will be the large amount of data that resides in these devices. It is therefore critical for healthcare providers to adopt analytics solutions that have specialized capabilities in mining machine data and correlating it with information from other sources, such as patient data. In the long term, this will enable healthcare providers to drive personalized care and evidence-based medicine.


Further reading

Connected Medical Device Development: A New Paradigm, IT0011-000372 (September 2015)

"IBM's acquisition of Merge Healthcare underlines its ambitions for Watson Health," IT0011-000373 (September 2015)

"Philips and Salesforce join forces behind a new connected healthcare platform," IT0011-000323 (July 2015)

"Health tech developers welcome FDA guidance on mobile medical apps," IT0011-000358 (May 2015)


Srikanth Venkataraman, Analyst, Healthcare Technology

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