Remote patient monitoring expected to explode, but at what cost?
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Like most aspects of healthcare, mobile technology seems to be soaring up, up and away, like one of our favorite superheroes. No birds, no planes, just the projected rise of connected medical devices — the use of which is supposed to sharply increase in the next half-decade, according to a new report.
But is this rise in the use of technology — more connected devices, wearables, medical devices, etc. — really a good thing, or does it open us to a whole different set of problems? Do these figures represent the focus on the betterment of care outcomes, or on the investment of the sector and improving its overall infrastructure?
In its report, "mHealth and Home Monitoring," Swedish market research firm Berg Insight estimates the number of remotely monitored patients globally is expected to surpass 50 million people (about one-seventh of the American population) by 2021, up from just a few more than 7 million in 2016, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.9 percent. These numbers include all patients enrolled in mobile healthcare programs in which connected medical devices are used, the report's authors note.
"Using patients' own mobile devices as health hubs is now becoming a viable alternative for remote patient monitoring," the report noted. "Bring-your-own-device connectivity will be preferred by select patients groups and will be used for the monitoring of 22.9 million patients in 2021."
Additionally, health-related apps and devices "are generating potentially huge amounts of data." The benefit of such devices is that providers and patients are then able to share data through third-party clouds that allow "people suffering from diabetes to download their glucose readings to their mobile devices, regardless of the brand of the glucose reading device." Berg Insight also called care delivery platforms and mHealth connectivity solutions "two of the most rapidly developing parts of the mHealth technology value chain."
Care delivery platforms enable 1) remote delivery of healthcare services and 2) coordination of care activities between patients, providers and other stakeholders such as the patient's family. The report said care delivery platforms "will be instrumental for engaging patients in their own care and delivering remote monitoring services to a large number of people in a cost-efficient way."
Despite this growth, though, these connected devices are a hacker's dream and can be a patient's nightmare. Emerging cyberattacks and hacks show that internet-connected medical devices can mean first-rate vulnerability management because the devices are rich in data that can be easily monetized by cybercriminals.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators, blood refrigeration units and CT scanners are all ripe for attack — especially devices with out-of-date operating systems, like those using Microsoft XP.
With more investment in the technology comes more potential interest from criminals. Where the money is so shall the criminals be. These headlines that proliferate the web may be good news today, but might spell tragedy tomorrow.
Perhaps we'll long for the day when we aren't connected like computers and refrigerators to the internet of things.
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