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How healthcare organizations can jump-start IoT implementations

Healthcare organizations face a new challenge as they prepare for the next wave of innovation: they must re-imagine and modernize their digital infrastructure now.

Rapidly changing patient expectations and the continuing shift to value-based care are creating new requirements and opportunities to better leverage data for actionable clinical and business decisions.

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The explosive growth of connected devices and Internet of Things (IoT) systems is driving the need for strategic action. While many healthcare organizations may start their IoT journey with just one application, the true potential of IoT is the ability to connect systems to deliver intelligent outcomes from an open, scalable “system of systems” and the related data generation network effect.

Start small and break down data silos as you scale
As healthcare organizations invest in IoT, leaders need to demonstrate early wins, and incubate projects while building the supporting infrastructure to strategically scale for the future. Large public clouds may make it easier to get an IoT project off the ground, but IT organizations also need to consider the benefits of an open, interoperable environment across the collaborative care continuum. In fact, sending data to a large public cloud may actually result in “locking” information into new silos. It also may be cost prohibitive to retrieve the data to create new value – which is the ultimate goal of IoT.

Harness the power of open infrastructure
To take full advantage of IoT opportunities, organizations need to connect the physical world with the digital, starting with real-time data collection, then adding analytics to generate intelligence, and eventually automation. Each step builds confidence in the next. The IoT continuum spans the edge, distributed core and cloud with zones of intelligence that can perform analytics when, how and where it matters – optimizing value for your health system.

To meet current and future needs, healthcare organizations should decouple their infrastructure from applications, using standardized frameworks and platform-independent device management solutions.

The use of open source is important, as diverse healthcare use cases require flexible and harmonized methodologies to integrate applications and share data securely across domains. These components combine to help achieve impact quickly with faster time to value through a common framework for data modeling and provide added security through a global community of experts.

Enable real-time analytics at the edge
Just consider: to monitor one patient, a typical U.S. hospital employs up to 15 connected devices at the bedside – from different manufacturers, using different data types. If this data is not systematically collected and analyzed, it will just result in a lot of noise, without creating any additional insights.

To truly improve the patient’s care experience, and gain intelligence from all this data in a timely manner, IT departments need to increase operational efficiencies by applying standards that create a common means of accessing, extracting and analyzing data.

Healthcare organizations need edge gateway technologies that can deliver on these operational efficiencies, act on the inputs while it matters, and ultimately send only summary outputs into the cloud for remote monitoring. With compute at the edge, healthcare organizations can analyze everything and act on the right signals, reduce data lifecycle costs, and improve security.

Edge gateways locally process, buffer, filter and secure data before transmitting to the cloud – storing only summary data and reducing costs. They perform critical security functions including identity management, encryption, segmentation and threat analysis. IoT at the edge supports applications ranging from connecting disparate research, to monitoring drug effectiveness, to placing curated data for better decision making at clinicians’ fingertips.

Reduce risk while speeding time to impact
With vendor-neutral open source projects such as EdgeX Foundry, the goal is to build a common reference framework facilitating API and hardware interoperability in the IoT ecosystem. With the uncertainty surrounding future standards in IoT and the speed with which connected devices are being rolled out, these efforts will help to future-proof IoT deployments, enabling healthcare organizations to realize both short- and long-term value from their IoT investments.

It’s time to get started. Virtualization of care delivery and proliferation of medical device services, applications and APIs are taking off. Have a strategy, talk with your EMR vendors, and make sure you tap into the promise of healthcare IoT.

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