The Internet of Things (IoT) holds great promise for healthcare in the form of connected health devices and wearable sensors used at home for remote monitoring of patients. Yet, the personal information gathered by these things is potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks by hackers looking to exploit this valuable health data.
At a hearing last week on IoT held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, lawmakers heard testimony from industry groups about both the benefits and risks to consumers from connected health devices.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, testified before the subcommittee that these devices provide an unprecedented opportunity to care for Americas aging population, as well as the 56 million Americans with disabilities.
As our population advances in years, and the number of caregivers shrinks, smart home devices enable seniors to live independently and comfortably at home, retaining their quality of life into their golden years, argued Shapiro. Connected devices can remind seniors to take their medication, refill their prescriptions, and help prevent accidental over- or under-doses.
Likewise, Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT|The App Association, which represents more than 5,000 app and technology vendors, told lawmakers that by 2050 there will be more than 83 million Americans over the age of 65 and 80 percent will have at least one chronic condition, straining public and private health resources. According to Reed, the medical innovation of IoT is imperative to prevent a cataclysmic economic outcome from this boom in aging adults.
But the technology comes with its own challenges. The future of health IoT must be founded on trust which requires strong security and privacy measures, asserted Reed. At the same time, he lamented that the lack of clarity around reimbursement is also an impediment to the adoption of these innovative technologies.
Similarly, Shapiro pointed out that healthcare professionals are raising interesting questions about how they are compensated in their existing healthcare regimens for monitoring remote patient data and questions are being asked as to who owns data from these devices.
With these connected health devices collecting unprecedented amounts of data, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) argued that Congress must work with stakeholders to create a privacy landscape that Internet of Things users can understand and that provides individuals with control of their own data.
Not surprisingly, new research released this week by consultancy Park Associates reveals that 23 percent of U.S. broadband households have privacy and security concerns related to the use of connected health devices. And, 35 percent of consumers said they worry that personal health information will not remain confidential if it is stored online.
The connected health industries, device manufacturers, and app developers not only need to ensure they have strong security measures in place but also that consumers are aware of the steps they are taking to protect their data, said Harry Wang, director of health and mobile products for Parks Associates, in a written statement. A clear consumer bill of rights could establish limits and extend consumer control over the collection and use of health data.
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