In our previous post “What could go wrong”, we investigated what are the threats that IoT-MD can face. What about the challenges then? The implementation of IoT in healthcare brings some difficulties, not solemnly related to security, that is for sure the main subject, but also managing device diversity and interoperability, to data integration and scalability (Khanna and Misra, 2016).
To improve patient care in home and hospital environments, the management of different and interoperable devices is a pivotal point. As for now, IoT devices communicate directly with a software, sending, and receiving data, but not between themselves. If different equipment and devices were to communicate with each other’s, the boost in healthcare would be incredible. And this takes us to the challenge of data scalability. Already with the devices on the market, the amount of data collected is enormous. W. Raghupathi and V. Raghupathi report that “data from the U.S. healthcare system alone reached, in 2011, 150 exabytes. At this rate of growth, big data for U.S. healthcare will soon reach the zettabyte (1021 gigabytes) scale and, not long after, the yottabyte (1024 gigabytes)” (Raghupathi and Raghupathi, 2016). Healthcare providers need to be ready and able to scale their systems in order manage their data in the most efficient way. And what about data integration?
All the data gathered needs to be integrated from multiple sources if we want to build intelligent, context-aware health and wellness IoT applications (Khanna and Misra, 2016). Data integration would help act promptly to critical situations, if not to prevent them, but the data will need to be meaningful and properly understandable. Of course, another key requirement would be the flexibility and evolution of applications. Medical devices get constantly improved and so they need constant updates by specialists.
As mentioned in previous posts, Internet of Things devices present the same security and privacy breach risks of normally connectable devices (laptops, tablets, etc.), if not greater, if we consider that they are designed to act automatically without human interaction (3). And that’s why security and privacy protection is probably the biggest challenge that healthcare organisations face in the adoption of IoT environments. As shown in the graph below we can see how the major concern for the public is privacy.
(Salem and Suarez, 2016)
But can anything be done to improve security and guarantee safeguard to patient’s personal and medical data?
Many things can be done, and I found particularly interesting this article of W. A. Tanenbaum (2015), in which he suggest(and uses as the article’s title) that Healthcare’s “Internet of Things” should be the “Security of Things”. Healthcare technology officers(HTO) should ensure data encryption when it carries instructions from private networks, cloud systems and outsourcing providers. directed to private networks, outsourcing providers (Tanenbaum, 2016). To enforce security, it also is important that only authorised and secure devices access and give access only to the required data for the intended operation. The device needs to give access to authorised and authenticated individual that need to retrieve it and to do so it’s important that the HTO make sure that a credential and password protection policy is in place, without overlooking the physical security of the device itself(Tanenbaum, 2016). W. A. Tanenbaum recommends as well that good personnel practice and repeated audits take place to prevent human errors. And the last suggestion is that devices connected receive tested and verified security updates over time, to prevent any form of security breaches (Tanenbaum, 2016). Sure it requires a lot of details and attentions, but remember than IoT-MD is used as well in the children healthcare, and We want to protect our future in the best way.
Khanna, A. and Misra, P. (2016). The Internet of Things for Medical Devices – Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward. [online] www.tcs.com. Available at: http://www.tcs.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/White%20Papers/Internet-of-Things-Medical-Devices_0714-2.pdf [Accessed 25 Nov. 2016].
Raghupathi, W. and Raghupathi, V. (2016). Big data analytics in healthcare: promise and potential. [online] www.hissjournal.biomedcentral.com. Available at: https://hissjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2047-2501-2-3 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2016].
Tanenbaum, W. (2016). Blog. [online] Healthcare IT News. Available at: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/blog/healthcares-internet-things-should-be-security-things 3
[Accessed 3 Dec. 2016].
Salem, S. and Suarez, G. (2016). Key Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges in Healthcare IoT Adoption. [online] Blueskycenter. Available at: http://www.blueskycenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Key-Trends-Opportunities-and-Challenges-in-Healthcare-IoT-Adoption.pdf [Accessed 29 Nov. 2016].
Ott, P. and Sametinger, J. (2016). Security Challenges for Medical Devices. [online] Cacm.acm.org. Available at: http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2015/4/184691-security-challenges-for-medical-devices/abstract [Accessed 4 Dec. 2016].