Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 08, 2017

IoT in Healthcare Features Risk and Reward

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that, while still in its infancy, is delivering a lot of new value for its users. Whether something as simple as a system that allows users to turn on house lights while on the drive home, or something as complex as a pacemaker that reports back to doctors, there's a lot going on here. Healthcare is no exception, and while there's no shortage of rewards for using IoT systems here, there are also significant risks to consider.

The rewards are massive, and potentially sufficient to lower healthcare costs sufficiently that getting everyone back on health insurance might not be that hard.  With reports suggesting spending on healthcare-related IoT systems will hit $117 billion by just 2020, the end result is a big new market waiting to be realized.  With good reason, too; IoT systems represent a great way to connect patients and healthcare providers, meaning the need to warehouse patients in hospital buildings plummets for all but the most extreme cases.

Yet with this comes substantial risk; IoT systems often face significant security risks, since these aren't thought of as actual parts of a network where sensitive data is stored, but rather as one-way communications nodes. This lack of appreciation for the risk involved means IoT devices are often less secured, and could potentially be used as the staging ground for an attack on the wider network. Considering that we're talking about healthcare networks here, that opens up the potential for some truly epic data theft.

That's just for starters; if the devices are ever hacked, it could well pose disaster for patients. Imagine a pacemaker that reports back to doctors, as noted previously. Now consider what happens if a malicious hacker decides to try and stop that device remotely. Death, that's what happens. We're talking about a prospect where someone might be hacked to death.

However, this is where the best news comes in. When a market clearly understands the potential risks involved in going after potential rewards, plans can be better made to accommodate the risk. When you know what hazards to watch for, it becomes that much easier to plan for ways around these. Those who go boating take life jackets, those going on long car trips bring a smartphone, and so on. Those with devices connected to the Internet that they literally require to live protect those devices' connectivity.

By knowing what risks the IoT market in healthcare faces, we're better able to address these risks and minimize the potential negative effects. We'll never completely eliminate these, of course, but the lower the risk, the better off the entire healthcare market, and us by extension, will be for it. 

Edited by Alicia Young
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