IoT and the Future of Healthcare Data Management

Internet of Things | HealthcareBy Joseph Hobbs, CHCIO, MBA, Regional Chief Information Officer, NetApp Healthcare

 

Imagine a future in which, before you even fully wake in the morning, your bed transmits information about your sleep quality to your physician. Later in the day, your elderly mother's pill bottle alerts you and her doctor's office that she hasn't taken her blood pressure medication. Meanwhile, your refrigerator has already informed the grocery delivery service that you're running low on essentials such as organic produce and hormone-free milk.

In the near future, healthcare providers and patients will wrestle with new data management issues as the Internet of Things (IoT), which combines a network of intelligent devices with big data analytics, mobilizes patient data off the premises and puts data collection into the hands of both patients and healthcare providers. And with this content will come new concerns: Who will own the data? The patient? The provider? The healthcare institution? The data-collection device developer? Who will be responsible for its accuracy? How and where will it be stored and who will pay for that?

One organization recently found that a single patient generated 3.67 terabytes of data. Consider what this means in the context of millions of healthcare consumers and the estimated 26 billion every-day objects projected to be able to capture, receive, and share data by 2020.

 

The Data Management Challenge
Along with IoT, healthcare data management requirements are growing astronomically. This is because of the increasing number of chronic patient conditions and an aging population that requires new ways of monitoring and managing patient healthcare data. Healthcare organizations are expanding use of remote patient monitoring systems that use clinical-grade monitors, peripherals, and other software. And that is coupled with exponential growth in wearable consumer electronics led by apps and appliances for fitness and health monitoring. In the future, IoT is expected to make today’s data management challenges seem small by comparison.

Healthcare organizations were among the first to rely on IoT technology, which promises to improve patient outcomes while reducing costs. As this technology expands in use, it will create new opportunities and challenges across the entire healthcare industry.

 

IoT in Healthcare
Healthcare currently encompasses a range of IoT technologies, including:

  • Traditional medical devices, including chemotherapy dispensers and insulin pumps
  • Wireless devices, including scales, glucometers, and blood pressure monitors
  • Consumer wearables such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Nike FuelBand

 

Telemedicine is likely to accelerate the use of IoT and wearables, providing patients with easy access to their health data and the choice between in-person and virtual health-related visits. By reducing the requirement and number of office visits, clinicians can effectively expand the territory of care across a broader population and reduce costs at the same time.

 

Business Drivers: IoT and Healthcare
The new generation of IoT sensors and patient devices means that healthcare providers can collect and analyze data from hospital devices, such as bedside sensors, and, just as importantly, from patient devices outside the hospital. Combining these data sources can provide clinical specialists with a single platform for managing patient data.

IoT also provides real-time information to caregivers through the cloud, delivering anytime, anywhere patient status between in-person care visits and at the point of care. Clinicians can collect, record, and analyze new data streams faster and more accurately, using data to enable better-informed decisions.

With IoT, healthcare providers and patients can partner to collect and monitor health data, focusing on prevention and management to improve outcomes and save money. Next-generation predictive analytics will further support a focus on wellness versus illness and give healthcare practitioners real and ready tools for effective population health management.


Unlocking the Value of IoT Data
NetApp believes that the hybrid cloud will be the dominant IT model across all industries—including healthcare—and that a new approach to data management will be required to create value from IoT data. With our Data Fabric, healthcare providers will be able to process large volumes of data from diverse IoT sources with visibility, performance, and efficiency. A hospital will be able to store data in lower-cost cloud or archival storage and then seamlessly move data to high-performance flash storage seamlessly to enable predictive analytics to run on the data.

NetApp has a global ecosystem of partners that can help you build a Data Fabric platform that connects, automates, and secures data wherever it is located. The data can be in your own data centers, colocated near the cloud, or housed in one or more cloud services.

According to Sean Harnett, Assistant Director of Network Services, Engage, a division of Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), simplifying and streamlining data management of healthcare records in the cloud is vital to meeting patient needs. “NetApp® technology is helping us help our customers direct more time and money into patient care—and that is what our business is all about.”