The Internet of Things (IoT) is already having a profound impact on our lives, with the word ‘Smart’ preceding everything from watches and speakers to fridges and lightbulbs.
While internet connected devices have been commonplace in households for a number of years, more and more devices are working their way into the workplace. Statista predict that the number of connected devices will surpass 30 billion by 2020 with more than 65% of enterprises adopting IoT products.
Gartner estimates that internet-connected things will outnumber humans 4-to-1 in the next 24 months
While there are a number of inherent challenges this movement brings, savvy organisations are starting to realise the benefits of implementing an effective IoT strategy. Some of the most notable benefits include significant reductions in energy consumption and maintenance hours across local government functions, more efficient production lines in manufacturing and improved levels patient care and satisfaction within healthcare. Indeed, GrowthEnabler & MarketsandMarkets reported that the global IoT market will be dominated by Smart Cities (26%), Industrial IoT (24%) and Connected Health (20%).
The health sector experienced an 11% growth of IoT network connections in the Healthcare sector between 2016 and 2017, with 3.7 million medical devices in use. By 2025 it is predicted that most of the total global worth of IoT will come from devices in health care (USD 2.5 trillion).
From Home Comforts to Health Care Convenience
According to a recent PwC survey, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in 2019.
How will Health Care Benefit from IoT?
The issues across the NHS are well publicised, with the topic of budget cuts a particularly regular front page feature. With less resources available and demand for NHS services on the rise, an emphasis must be placed on increasing efficiencies across core functions. IoT presents an excellent opportunity here, and it currently has the £3.2 billion annual back office admin overhead in its crosshairs.
In a survey carried out by Accenture Consulting, 73% of health care executives believe IoT will be disruptive within the next 36 months. With better access to real-time information, innovative monitoring techniques and predictive diagnostics (all of which IoT can provide), problems we face currently such as soaring costs, complex regulations and overworked clinicians can all be addressed.
The report outlined several key use cases to consider:
- Internet-enabled devices seamlessly collect and analyse real-time health data
- Connect entire networks of medical devices
- Locate health care related assets
- Streamline patient care
- Organise and access medical research
Overcoming IoT Challenges
With all great things come responsibilities, and IoT will certainly bring both, notably affecting IT teams who will need to carefully consider their IoT security strategy. The stark consequences of overlooking aspects of security were highlighted in 2017, when hackers exploited patch vulnerabilities in Windows XP based devices to install the infamous WannaCry ransomware. 80 out of 236 hospital trusts were impacted, with critical services disrupted for weeks as the recovery process was implemented.
The independent report by William Smart, CIO for Health and Social Care published earlier this year explained: “Local organisations must ensure effective management of their technology infrastructure, systems and services, including the adequate patching of devices and systems, ensure sufficient network security and replace unsupported software. Nationally, a new agreement with Microsoft has been signed, which includes patches for all its current Windows devices operating XP.”
All of these challenges and risks place a heavy burden on IT staff to identify and control all devices across the network on a daily basis. For health care trusts and providers that are spread across different locations or have very limited IT resources, this level of network administration is incredibly demanding and absorbs efforts otherwise spent on more strategic or more mission-critical tasks.
How can Datrix help?
NHS England’s view is that WannaCry infected some parts of the NHS mainly because organisations had failed to maintain good cyber-security practices. It is not possible to eliminate all cyber threats, but organisations can mitigate against them through following simple best practices.
With over 20 years’ experience in the healthcare sector, and with over 30 NHS trusts among our customers, Datrix have an intricate understanding of the challenges faced by IT teams in this space, and how to overcome them.