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VP of Delivery at Relevant Software

Top Challenges of IoT in Healthcare and Ways to Overcome Them

October 26, 2023


The Internet of Things (IoT) has subtly weaved into healthcare, reshaping patient experiences and how professionals work. However, while IoT offers undeniable advantages, diving into its adoption isn’t without its hiccups. The challenges of IoT in healthcare can be a bit of a tightrope, balancing between the promise of innovation and the realities of implementation. Data concerns, connectivity issues, and even something as basic as device compatibility can pose real head scratches. 

But before you get overwhelmed, take a moment. Our team at Relevant Software has been down this road, and we’ve got insights into the challenges and opportunities of IoT in healthcare. We unpack these challenges and, more importantly, show you how to overcome them.

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Understanding IoT in Healthcare

At its core, IoT in healthcare (often termed IoMT or Internet of Medical Things) focuses on interconnecting medical devices, applications, and systems to gather and share data. This interconnectedness is both its strength and its Achilles’ heel.

On the one side, it promises improved patient outcomes, streamlined operations, and more insightful data analysis. For instance, a wearable device tracking a patient’s heart rate can instantly alert medical professionals to any concerning variations. 

IoT Use Cases in Healthcare
Use CaseDescription
Remote Patient MonitoringDevices that collect patient health data and send it to healthcare professionals remotely.
Wearable Fitness TrackersDevices like smartwatches that monitor heart rate, sleep, steps, etc.
Medication AdherenceSmart pill bottles or dispensers that remind patients to take their meds.
Emergency CareDevices that detect falls or other emergencies and automatically alert medical professionals.
Chronic Disease ManagementDevices that monitor specific metrics like glucose levels for diabetics.
Asset TrackingSystems that track hospital assets like wheelchairs, beds, and equipment.
Smart BedsBeds that can detect when they’re occupied and adjust for patient comfort.

However, where there’s data — especially the kind as sensitive as medical information—there are always concerns about security and privacy. With data breaches becoming all too common, addressing security and privacy issues with IoT in healthcare has never been more critical. How do we ensure this interconnected web of devices remains impenetrable to malicious intent?

Then there’s the matter of IoMT connectivity. As the healthcare sector continues to integrate more IoT-driven tools, ensuring stable and secure connections becomes paramount. Any disruption in IoMT connectivity technologies can lead to crucial data loss or, worse, wrong medical interventions. It’s not just about having the technology; it’s about ensuring it works seamlessly and reliably every single time.

Furthermore, as with technological advancements, there’s always the inherent risk factor. What happens if a device malfunctions? What are the implications of incorrect data readings? Acknowledging the risks in IoT healthcare devices is the first step in creating comprehensive mitigation strategies. 

Next, we’ll zero in on one of the most pressing concerns in this sphere: the potential cybersecurity challenges in using IoT in healthcare. Because knowing is half the battle in overcoming it.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare

Security Challenges of IoT in Healthcare and Ways to Overcome

The surge in connected devices, while undoubtedly offering numerous benefits, also presents a suite of potential risks. Let’s dive into some of these IoT challenges in healthcare.

Data Privacy Concerns

When we talk about IoT devices in healthcare, we’re often discussing tools that collect and transmit sensitive information. From wearable health monitors to smart hospital beds, these devices constantly send out data, much of which is personal to patients. 

Patient Confidentiality Risks

Challenge: Every piece of data that moves increases the chances of that data being accessed inappropriately. Even a minor leak can expose sensitive patient details, potentially leading to misuse or public exposure. 

Solution: Make sure patient info, whether it’s being stored or sent, is locked up tight. That means strong encryption and making sure only the right eyes have access—think two-step logins and maybe even fingerprint checks.

Data Breach Incidents

Challenge: The healthcare sector, unfortunately, has been a target for data breaches. When integrating IoT, the increase in endpoints — each device being a potential weak link — compounds the risk. History has shown that attackers often look for the weakest link in a system, and with IoT, there’s a broader surface to probe.

Solution: Set up systems that can spot suspicious activity fast. Get to know your systems inside out—run regular checks to find weak spots and fix them. If things go south, know your next steps to limit the damage and inform everyone involved.

Regulatory Compliance (HIPAA, GDPR)

Beyond the direct risks to patients and institutions, staying compliant with regulations is challenging.

HIPAA and GDPR

Challenge: In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data. Any entity dealing with patient records must ensure that all necessary security measures are in place and followed. This becomes even more complex with the addition of multiple IoT devices, each potentially storing and transmitting patient data. 

For organizations operating within Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is another layer of regulation to consider. It mandates strict controls over personal data, with significant penalties for breaches. This means that IoT devices and the systems that support them must be designed from the ground up with these rules in mind.

Solution: The legal landscape keeps shifting. Keep a close watch on changes, and maybe even bring some specialists on board. Running regular compliance checks is the name of the game here.

Device and Network Vulnerability

You know, the more we integrate IoT into healthcare, the clearer it becomes: we’re standing on the frontier of some significant opportunities. Yet, with these opportunities come security challenges in IoT healthcare. The devices and networks we rely on are vulnerable, making them targets.

Risks of Device Hacking

Challenge: More devices mean more entry points for those with malicious intent. Each device, be it a heart monitor or a smart inhaler, can be a potential doorway for hackers. When health data is at risk, the consequences of breaches are significant.

Solution: Every device needs its unique, complex login. Keep device software up-to-date to fix any soft spots hackers might exploit.

Insufficient Security Protocols

Challenge: One would think that with so much on the line, our security protocols would be rock-solid, right? Yet, it’s startling how often this isn’t the case. Many IoT devices in healthcare are deployed with default settings or outdated software, making them vulnerable.

Solution: Ensuring that healthcare IoT devices stay safe isn’t rocket science. It boils down to updating their software and ditching those easy-to-guess default settings. Pair that with some good old-fashioned staff education, and you’re on a safer track.

Lack of Standardization

Challenge: Here’s another hitch: there’s no universal playbook for IoT in healthcare applications. Manufacturers have their ways, and hospitals have theirs. This lack of standardization can lead to gaps in healthcare security, and those gaps? They’re what hackers live for.

Solution: There’s a lot happening in the IoT space. Instead of going it alone, team up with an IoMT development company. They use well-known standards to make sure your devices work well with others and that they’re secure.

The truth is, while the challenges in healthcare IoT are real and pressing, they’re also surmountable. It all starts by recognizing them, and from there, it’s a matter of commitment and collaboration to address them head-on. After all, the potential rewards? They’re well worth the effort.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare

Integration and Compatibility Issues in Healthcare IoT

Diving into healthcare tech, one quickly realizes that introducing new devices isn’t just about turning them on and connecting them. With many devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) spectrum, achieving consistent communication can feel like threading a particularly tricky needle. Let’s discuss.

Interoperability with Existing Systems

At the heart of the matter, we aim for every new IoT device to exchange data with established third-party systems easily. But the road to that ideal can be bumpy.

EHRs (Electronic Health Records) Hurdles

Challenge: EHRs are pivotal in today’s healthcare, the backbone of patient data storage. When an IoT device tries to send data to an EHR, things can go awry if the EHR software doesn’t recognize or misinterprets the data. This mismatch often requires tailored solutions, which aren’t always straightforward or cost-effective.

Solution: Think of middleware as a savvy translator. We can smoothly connect the dots between traditional EHRs and modern IoT tools by using middleware. It is about the old and the new being able to interact harmoniously.

A Mismatch between Devices and Platforms

Challenge: It’s not solely about a single IoT device interacting with a central system. Devices also need to chat among themselves. One monitor tracks blood pressure, and another observes heart rate. These devices should ideally share data for a cohesive view of a patient’s health. But if they’re from different vendors or use distinct communication methods, getting them to cooperate is like asking two people speaking other languages to have a fluid conversation.

Solution: By sticking to widely recognized communication protocols, devices, no matter who made them, can chat effortlessly. And getting manufacturers together for a chat now and then? That’s bound to help standardize things.

Scalability and Updatability Issues

As we incorporate more IoT devices, two big questions surface: how do we keep these devices updated, and how do we scale solutions as needs grow? Let’s break this down.

Difficulty in Updating Devices and Systems

Challenge: Think of it like this: every time your smartphone gets a system update, it’s to improve performance, fix bugs, or enhance security. Now, imagine a hospital with hundreds of IoT devices. Keeping each of these updated is no small feat. Miss an update, and you might be dealing with performance hiccups or, worse, security vulnerabilities. The challenge is in not just initiating these updates but ensuring they’re completed without interrupting daily operations.

Solution: Remember how your apps update on your phone without you doing a thing? That’s the beauty of Over-the-air (OTA) updates. Regular checks ensure our healthcare devices aren’t missing out on any new features or important bug fixes.

Scaling IoT Solutions

Challenge: Here’s the thing – healthcare needs aren’t static. As a hospital expands or as more advanced treatments are introduced, there’s a demand for more or different IoT devices. Integrating these into an existing system without causing hitches? That’s the tricky part. It’s a bit like trying to add more cars to a train that’s already moving – you need precision, strategy, and the right tools.

Solution: Think of it as playing with building blocks. Modular designs give the flexibility to add or pluck out parts depending on what the healthcare setting requires at any given moment. It’s about evolving without turning everything upside down.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare

Ethical and Legal Implications

When diving into the world of healthcare tech, particularly IoT, it’s not just about data and devices; it’s about people—real people with real concerns about their personal information. Ethical and legal considerations, then, become paramount. So, what’s on the table?

Consent and User Agreement

The rapid adoption of IoT promises many benefits but also brings to light pressing concerns about security and privacy issues with IoT in healthcare.

Informed Consent from Patients

Challenge: Imagine visiting a doctor, and they use a new device on you, one that gathers heaps of data about your health. You’d want to know what’s happening with that data, right? That’s where informed consent comes into play. It’s more than just ticking a box; it’s ensuring patients fully understand what data is being collected, why it’s needed, and where it’s going. It’s about transparency and respect.

Solution: Remember signing up for something and later thinking, “Wait, what did I agree to?” We don’t want that. Digital platforms can ensure every patient knows precisely what they’re signing up for, making the consent process transparent and straightforward.

Clarity in Terms of Use and Data Handling

Challenge: Have you ever tried reading through a user agreement and felt lost in a sea of legalese? We’ve all been there. When it comes to healthcare IoT, clarity is king. Patients should not only have easy access to these agreements but should be able to understand them without needing a law degree. In plain language, the terms should spell out how their data will be used, stored, and protected.

Solution: No one has time to decipher complicated terms. So, let’s keep it simple. Spell out how we handle data in plain English and be there to answer any questions.

Liability and Malpractice Concerns

In the healthcare sector, the stakes are incredibly high. A malfunctioning device or a slight misjudgment can mean the difference between wellness and illness or even life and death. And when you toss IoT into the mix, the waters of responsibility become murkier. Let’s take a closer look.

Determining Responsibility in Cases of Malfunction

Challenge: Say a health monitoring device gives a faulty reading, leading to incorrect treatment. Who’s on the hook? The device manufacturer? The software developer? The medical staff relying on that reading? It’s a tangled web, and finding out where the fault truly lies can be a minefield. Hospitals, manufacturers, and developers alike must be ready to face these healthcare challenges head-on, with a clear understanding of their roles and the potential security risks involved.

Solution: A clear contract is like a good fence – it’s all about good neighbors. Having a well-defined user agreement means everyone knows their responsibilities. And before anything reaches the user, let’s double-check and test our devices.

Legal Recourse and Malpractice Lawsuits

Challenge: We live in a world where legal action is often the first response to medical missteps. When it comes to IoT, the paths to liability aren’t always clear-cut. Patients who feel wronged will seek justice, meaning healthcare providers need to be doubly sure of the tech they employ. Ensuring robust, reliable systems, backed by rigorous testing and quality checks, becomes not just an operational priority but a legal one.

Solution: Insurance isn’t just about those car ads on TV. For healthcare IoT, having solid insurance and a keen sense of the legal landscape protects us from those unexpected, rainy days. Training our teams regularly also ensures we dodge many pitfalls in the first place.

As devices become smarter and more integrated into patient care, professionals need to be equipped – not just technologically but legally – to handle the challenges that arise. It’s a balancing act, ensuring patients get the best care while also safeguarding against potential pitfalls.

Technical and Infrastructural Challenges

Let’s be real: while tech innovations in healthcare, like IoT, can be impressive, they come with their share of headaches. From an unstable Internet connection to dealing with dwindling battery life, there’s a lot to contend with. Let’s dive into some of the professionals’ nitty-gritty technical and infrastructural challenges.

Connectivity and Network Reliability

Ah, the age-old issue of wanting a reliable Internet connection. Especially in healthcare, where milliseconds can make a difference.

Dependency on Stable Internet Connections

Challenge: Remember the frustration when your favorite show buffers right at the climax? Now, imagine a doctor waiting for critical patient data during a procedure. A reliable Internet isn’t just a convenience in healthcare; it’s vital. Without this, real-time monitoring or remote diagnostics may be useless.

Solution: It’s all good till the Wi-Fi drops. We’ve all been there. So, let’s invest in backup networks. If one gives us the cold shoulder, another steps in.

Network Failures

Challenge: It’s more than just a momentary blip. If a network goes down briefly, it can lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatments, or even operational chaos. Professionals need not just Plan B but maybe even Plans C and D to counteract such disruptions.

Solution: Just like sometimes saving your work locally on your computer instead of trusting the cloud, local data storage ensures that data isn’t lost even if the network goes down.

Power Consumption and Battery Life

Beyond connectivity, there’s the equally pressing issue of keeping these devices alive and kicking.

Longevity of Devices

Challenge: You know that feeling when your phone battery is about to die? Think bigger. What happens when an essential monitoring device signals a low battery? It’s not always feasible to keep everything plugged in, especially in emergency or mobile situations.

Solution: Nobody likes constantly charging their devices. Using efficient designs and chipsets can help medical IoT devices last longer between those charges.

Power Management Solutions

Challenge: Look, tech’s great, but it needs juice to work. As the number of devices grows, so does the demand for power. It’s not just about having enough outlets but also about managing power efficiently to ensure no device runs dry unexpectedly.

Solution: Modern IoT devices are clever. With advanced power management, they can gauge usage patterns and manage energy use, ensuring they’re always there when needed.

Fundamentally, while IoT opens up new horizons for healthcare, it is important not to get caught up in the possibilities or lose sight of the practical challenges of IoT in healthcare applications.

IoT Without Challenges in Healthcare: Practical Tips

Let’s face it; while the possibilities of IoT in healthcare are vast, it’s not all smooth sailing. There are hurdles to cross and pitfalls to avoid. But with the right approach to IoT software development and our time-tested tips, these challenges are manageable. So, let’s break it down step by step.

  1. Straight Talk on Cybersecurity Challenges in Using IoT in Healthcare: In the world of healthcare, there’s no room for compromise regarding data security. Regular system updates, fortified firewalls, and end-to-end encryption are not luxuries; they’re necessities. This isn’t just about the tech; it’s about upholding the trust of every patient who walks through your doors.
  2. Empower Your Team: A well-informed team is your first line of defense. Host workshops, organize training sessions, and keep everyone abreast of the latest developments in IoT. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s also security.
  3. A Strong Network Isn’t Optional: A robust and dependable network lays the foundation for all IoT endeavors. Put simply, invest in reliable IoMT connectivity solutions. Anything less, and you’re building on shaky ground.
  4. Routine Tech Check-ups: Just like the human body, your tech needs regular check-ups. This means software updates, hardware evaluations, and overall system assessments. It’s basic tech hygiene to prevent cyber security challenges in IoT in healthcare.
  5. Keep Patients in the Loop: Transparency matters. Patients should be clear on the tech that’s monitoring them or managing their data. Their feedback and trust will guide and validate your IoT efforts.
  6. Mind Your Wallet, But See the Bigger Picture: Budgeting is crucial, but remember to weigh immediate costs against long-term benefits. The future can be brighter with a bit of strategic spending.
  7. Legally Speaking: Know the legal landscape like the back of your hand. Updated regulations, compliance checks, and an ear to the ground will keep you on the right side of the law.
  8. Two Heads (or More) are Better than One: Collaboration can be a game-saver. Forge alliances with tech vendors with security professionals on the board. There’s wisdom in partnerships, especially outsourcing ones.

Challenges of IoT in Healthcare: Wrapping it Up

Treading the waters of IoT in healthcare is an exhilarating journey. The potential perks, like enhanced patient monitoring and data-driven interventions, can revolutionize healthcare. However, hurdles such as security and connectivity can make the path seem daunting.

But with a proactive mindset, thorough planning, and an attitude of continuous learning that we provide at Relevant, these challenges become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. The results you’ll have leveraging with Relevant? Improved patient care, streamlined operations, and a future-ready healthcare system. It’s all within reach if we take this journey one informed step at a time. Contact us!



Written by
VP of Delivery at Relevant Software
Anna Dziuba is the Vice President of Delivery at Relevant Software and is at the forefront of the company's mission to provide high-quality software development services. Her commitment to excellence is reflected in her meticulous approach to overseeing the entire development process, from initial concept to final implementation. Anna's strategic vision extends to maintaining the highest code quality on all projects. She understands that the foundation of any successful software solution is its reliability, efficiency, and adaptability. To this end, she champions best practices in coding and development, creating an environment where continuous improvement and innovation are encouraged.

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