Category Archives: HealthTech

Healthcare IoT Security To Grow To $47 Billion In 2021

Healthcare IoT Security To Grow To $47 Billion In 2021

Healthcare IoT Security

It’s obvious that IoT can make the entire healthcare industry more efficient. The kind of data involved can be used to save time, physical energy and operating costs.

Because of this, devices that facilitate medical data are becoming more commonplace in the industry. This includes things such as wearables that can track a patient’s vitals remotely, tags and trackers for onsite equipment monitoring, medical resources on mobile and more.

And these are just a few general examples. You can bet that over time more technology will crop up that makes the lives of healthcare professionals easier. But along with the rise of these technologies and devices comes the need for security.

health-care-security

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

The Growing Need for IoT Security

Given the addition of new IoT devices in recent years, it makes perfect sense, then, why Market Research has estimated that healthcare IoT security will grow by 40 percent from 2016 to 2021.

With the recent IoT security market estimated at $4.7 billion with revenue of up to $2.2 billion, you can clearly see it has the potential for such growth. Healthcare IoT Security is expected to grow right alongside the medical IoT market, which has grown in popularity and necessity quite rapidly.

Health Care Monitoring And How IoT Improve It

There are many IoT applications that can be used to monitor a patient’s health, such as Future Path Medical’s UroSense. It measures the urine of catheterized patients to report crucial information, like body temperature. The data syncs to a nursing station or mobile device, allowing professionals to watch patients remotely.

Not all these devices are connected directly to the internet. Sometimes they tap into a local network to sync data. Even so, they can still be vulnerable.

Through software and hardware vulnerabilities, hackers can gain access to sensitive data and medical records. If these hackers were to gain access to medical equipment during an emergency situation, they could cause irreparable damage.

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This is exactly why healthcare IoT security is growing so fast. As more medical equipment becomes IoT-enabled, more security is necessary.

Just a single device like UroSense can identify signs of kidney injury, heart failure, infections, diabetes, tumors, sepsis and more. That’s why it’s much better – and more efficient – to have these kind of IoT-enabled devices in place as opposed to removing IoT from health care entirely. Health care professionals have access to transmitted data no matter where they are, exactly when they need it, which is hugely important for the success and improvement of modern day medicine.

Google, for instance, has come up with a contact lens that can identify a patient’s blood glucose levels. This makes monitoring diabetes much easier – and less painful for patients.

Additionally, powerful and surprisingly accurate equipment tracking in hospitals allows staff to locate resources quickly. Centrak is one company that specialized in real-time locating systems (or RTLS) in the healthcare industry. In an emergency situation, real-time reporting systems like this can save lives because staff members don’t have to search for the critical resources they need, wasting precious minutes.

But all of these devices collect important and sensitive data that must not only be accessible to healthcare professionals but also secured.

Securing The Future Of Connected Things

This kind of sensitive data requires a great deal of security, especially in an age where cyber attacks are commonplace. Then there’s the matter of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. By law, all electronically created, synced, maintained or transmitted patient data must be protected.

More importantly, patient privacy is also a viable concern. This involves making sure the appropriate parties have access to the data in question, and no one else. A breach of privacy or security is detrimental to everyone, including patients and health care providers.

Simply put, a majority of devices and systems – including those in the healthcare industry – are connected to the internet of things. And, as our connected technologies continue to evolve, so too must the security we place around them. Forty-seven billion dollars is no small number. Hopefully 2021 will prove to us once and for all that we can have our connected world, without sacrificing all of our personal data in the process.

By Kayla Matthews

Moving Medicine Forward: The Internet of Medical Things

Moving Medicine Forward: The Internet of Medical Things

The Internet of Medical Things

By now the Internet, and by extension the Internet of Things (IoT), is not an uncommon part of our daily lives. Everyday items such as TVs, security systems and fitness accessories or wearables are being connected to the Internet in ways previously unimaginable. However, increasingly the possibilities of the IoT extends beyond mere convenience and could become vital to our health.

Unlike our households, phones and businesses, the healthcare industry has been weary of embracing some aspects of the Internet and connectivity into practice. But the emergence of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) shows that this could be changing. It involves a connection of medical and other healthcare devices to the Internet, increasing the capacity for storing and analysing of personal and public data as well as more direct and rapid responses to medical conditions or emergencies. In a way, it’s goal is to “rehumanize the doctor-patient relationship”.

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Of course then, the success of this move requires a buy-in by or a culture change in the healthcare industry towards modern end-to-end medical solutions. The potential changes brought by a smoothly running IoMT would mean a significantly cheaper healthcare industry for both patients and professionals, which at present is an expensive and profiting industry. It is estimated that the most savings could be in chronic disease management. Furthermore, it would mean better and more responsive healthcare. Patients’ vitals such as temperature, heart rates and glucose levels can be remotely monitored, meaning less time spent at the doctor and more immediate response times when something goes awry. Moreover, data on the changes to these vitals can be stored in a way for doctors to review, providing a clearer picture of a person’s condition.

The IoMT is not without its hurdles though. Healthcare is a highly regulated industry and standardizing the IoMT or making it standard-compliant, while necessary, can slow down the adoption of many advances in this regard. There are many security issues surrounding the devices and the data they collect, which make room for more cyber attacks and security breaches, certainly concerning when dealing with a person’s health.

Nevertheless, it appears that the IoMT can play a large role in bringing medicine into the modern era while also improving the doctor-patient relationship.

Some notable examples in the IoMT include:

  • Propeller Health, which has released an FDA-approved asthma inhaler with a GPS-sensor. This allows for tracking of the time and location of the use of the inhaler, allowing a user to even avoid those areas which may prompt their asthma attacks.
  • Contact lenses for diabetics produced by Novartis and Google, that allows a patient to measure the level of blood sugar through tears and transferred to a smart device.
  • Monitoring of medication through Vitality, a medication container system that can notify a patient to take their prescribed medication through smartphone notifications or even a phone call.

By Jason de Klerk

How Close Are We To Having Mind-Controlled Bionic Prosthetics?

How Close Are We To Having Mind-Controlled Bionic Prosthetics?

Mind-Controlled Bionic Prosthetics

In the previous article, I introduced you to the advancements that we have seen to date with 3D-printed bionic prosthetics. In spite of significant advancements in reduced cost and functionality, there is still a lot that needs to be optimized in order to validate the technology as something that healthcare practitioners will use as the default standard for replacing lost limbs. Even if all the progress that needs to be made is magically completed, there is still a major gap that needs to be addressed: Will we ever be able to have conscious control over the movement of bionic prosthetics? Moreover, will patients be able to ‘feel’ objects with these prosthetics like they did with their normal limbs?

Bionic Realities

Star Wars IoT CESYes, I’m talking about the kind of phenomena that you commonly see in science fiction movies. When Luke Skywalker had his hand cut off with a lightsaber during the “Star Wars” saga, it was instantly replaced with a robotic hand that he was able to consciously control with next to no effort. Are we getting there, or are we a long way away from living this reality? Let’s see the progress that science has made to this date in the fields of robotics and neuroscience.

The first name that comes to mind is Össur, an innovative prosthetics company in Iceland that made breakthrough progress when they were able to have two amputees control their prosthetic legs with their own minds. How was this possible? These legs were operated by implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) that were inserted into the residual muscle tissue of the patient. When the patient wants to move the limb, the entire process begins subconsciously. This results in the release of electrical impulses that are then received by the IMES, which instantly triggers the desired movement through the use of a receiver that has been planted in the prosthetic limb.

This allows for movement that is both intuitive and integrative in nature. Össur claims that their technology can adapt to walking conditions and the walking style of the user in real-time, but this needs to be developed further in order to successfully give the patient complete and unconscious control of their limbs. Preliminary results indicate that the two subjects still have to consciously think about which limb they want to move and how they are going to move it in order for the technology to work.

Electrode Implants

electrode-implant

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

That’s not the only significant development that has arisen in recent years. Researchers at John Hopkins University have developed a prosthetic that allows for independent control of each of its five fingers using nothing but the mind. Electrodes were implanted in the male subject’s brain, followed by instructing the subject to attempt to move individual fingers. It took a long time to do the necessary brain mapping in order to see which parts of the brain lit up when the patient was instructed to think about moving a particular finger. After the prosthetic was re-programmed with this new information, they found that the fingers could be individually controlled with 76% accuracy! The gap remains from the fact that there is significant overlap between parts of the brain that control each finger. This makes sense when you consider that we tend to move multiple fingers at once.

So, what’s next for the development of mind-controlled bionic prosthetics? For starters, there needs to be a shift towards non-invasive methods. It is extremely risk to surgically implant electrodes in a patient’s brain, and there lies the hidden assumption that the brain activity required to activate the muscles from the missing limb are still functioning normally.

Another major advancement that needs to happen is two-way communication between the limb and the user. As mentioned in the introduction, we do not currently have the technology to allow patients to feel a sense of touch with these limbs. This is relevant towards those who suffer from paralysis and would heavily rely on this advancement in order to feel the objects that they are grabbing.

Lastly, there would have to be 100% accuracy in the control of these limbs. If they are going to be truly useful to the patient, there should be no room for any mis-interpreted communication signals between the user and the limb. The experience should feel completely normal to the patient, as if they had normal limbs to begin with.

We have only scratched the surface of the capabilities of mind-controlled bionic prosthetics. Future developments will allow for these limbs to be regularly used in the healthcare and military sectors. Science fiction isn’t too far away from being real life!

By Tom Zakharov

Tom is a Master’s student at McGill University, currently specializing in the field of Experimental Medicine. After graduating from the University of Ottawa as a Summa Cum Laude undergraduate, he is currently investigating novel indicators of chemotherapy toxicity in stage IV lung cancer patients. Tom also has 4+ years of scientific research in academia, government, and the pharmaceutical industry. Tom’s first co-authored paper investigated a novel analytical chemistry method for detecting hydrazine in nuclear power plants at parts-per-billion (ppb) concentrations, which can be viewed here.

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is growing increasingly pervasive in today’s modern world. Perhaps the most publicized and recognizable application of AI to date, IBM’s Jeopardy-winning computer, Watson, is now being used to help cure cancer. IBM announced the development of Watson for Genomics on Wednesday at the National Cancer Moonshot Summit. The supercomputer aims to analyze gene structures of cancer patients to determine where mutations occur and in turn figure out potential causes and treatments.

Watson differs from other supercomputers because it is able to answer questions in natural language, not just binary code or technical inputs, making it extremely practical for busy doctors on the move. Currently, coming up with cancer treatment plans for specific patients is a time-intensive process. First, the entire genome of a patient must be analyzed, then a team of doctors must convene to figure out the best treatment plan. Watson can do all of it in under three minutes by tapping into massive data sources of medical literature and the sequenced DNA of patients on file.

IBM-Watson
(Image Source: Kaesler Media / Shutterstock)

This is just the latest in a series of healthcare applications IBM is looking to use its Watson supercomputer. Watson has already worked with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and CVS to improve patient care and predict future health issues. Healthcare is just one potential vertical for IBM, and they are looking for creative ways to use their super-computing power to help industries across the board. The software giant even developed an LED-light filled dress worn at the Met Gala that changed based on the mood of the event on social media.

Watson is even teaming up with doctors at the Veterans Affair Department (VA) to provide treatment suggestions to 10,000 US veterans over the next two years. That means 30 times more patients will receive care than by using the current doctor-by-committee approach.

It is time-intensive and it is not scalable,” says Dr. Michael Kelly, national program director of oncology at the VA. “One human couldn’t do it, it takes a panel.” Or one Watson. Watson will look at a DNA sequence and explore potential causes for the cancer, known as deidentified genetic alteration files. Watson will cross reference the DNA sequence of each patient with other patients’ DNA and contemporary medical literature to formulate what gene mutations have occurred and potential treatments to those.

Watson and IBM also aim to benefit from access to 3.5% of the country’s cancer patients and their data. But working through genome sequences is only half of the equation for Watson. Stephen Harvey, vice president of Watson Health at IBM says, “The other half of the job is filtering out things that wouldn’t be clinically valuable for doctors like Dr. Kelly.” In other words, Watson may be able to take orders in practical language, but it will need to give them to doctors as well, a challenge now at the core of all AI developers world-wide.

By Thomas Dougherty

Curing Cancer With Big Data

Curing Cancer With Big Data

Cancer & Big Data

The fight against cancer has been going on for centuries. Many leaders have tried and failed to bring about change to cancer treatment. Richard Nixon famously declared a War on Cancer with the National Cancer Act of 1971, and while the Nixon administration certainly increased research funding, they ultimately fell short of eradicating this horrible disease.

The new Cancer Moonshot championed by Vice President Joe Biden has a much better chance of making good on its lofty premise because of the extensive collaboration promised by all stakeholders in an effort to finally and permanently cure cancer.

The Cancer Moonshot aims to develop new ways to treat cancer that can be in use by 2020 (Infographic provided by Maacenter.org). This will be achieved by bringing together each and every part of the healthcare process to ensure that information is shared by anyone who may have ideas about how to cure cancer. Never before have research institutions, government agencies, academia, big pharma, doctors, and even patients themselves banded together in hopes of ridding the world of its most recognizable and ubiquitous disease.

Moonshot

This effort is exciting for all those affected by cancer and is especially invigorating for people afflicted with rare cancers like mesothelioma. With only 3,000 people diagnosed every year, the disease is largely an afterthought when it comes to cancer funding and large-scale research projects. However, by targeting specific tumor signatures patients can be cured, not with a disease-specific treatment, but by personalized therapies that calibrate the patient’s immune system to fight off diseased cells. Cancers of all types would be permanently impacted with this new method of treatment.

For all initiative of this magnitude to realize success, all resources possible must work together to achieve a common goal. How data is securely stored, analyzed, and shared will have an incredibly significant role in the effort. A large step towards breaking down the silos in data sharing was taken with the announcement of the National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC). When completed, the GDC will be an interactive and searchable database that allows doctors to access the most recent information about treatments from around the country.

DarenThe GDC platform is the first of its kind and represents an innovative way to share and analyze information. Because of the nature of the disease, sharing results of these genomic trails will be integral to this data resulting in clinical advancements. For the moonshot to work it must have sound and significant data to tell the story of its success. As Daren Glenister puts it, “Big data and learning algorithms will enable researchers to identify patterns and anomalies that, for instance, may help to identify patients who can benefit from standard treatments, or whose tumors require a different approach.”

Landing on the moon was once thought impossible. Finding the cure for cancer can be viewed with some skepticism. However, with the advancements in genomic medicine of the past 20 years combined with a revolutionary collaboration of ideas and data, we have never been positioned better to finally beat cancer once and for all.

By Sarah Wallace

IoT & Predictive Analytics In Healthcare

IoT & Predictive Analytics In Healthcare

IoT & Predictive Analytics

In a report by Grand View Research Inc., it’s predicted that the global Internet of Things (IoT) healthcare market will reach nearly $410 billion by 2022, with mobile penetration, software automation, and innovation medical devices promising rapid testing, greater accuracy, portability, and user-friendliness. Chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart failure, and hypertension specifically can be better addressed with IoT devices, offering users greater personal independence while still having their vital signs monitored, activity and safety measured, and medication supervised.

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IoT Healthcare Solutions

We already have a host of IoT solutions available in the healthcare sector, possibly most prevalent the fitness monitors. But such personal activity trackers are really just a taste of what IoT technology can offer the healthcare industry. Infusion pumps, lighting and heating automation, and record keeping utilizing IoT tech already aid hospitals and healthcare providers, but pioneering organizations are taking a leap forward. Boston Medical Centre, for instance, uses sensors which prevent newborn babies from being removed from the hospital without being signed out, and monitors for patients in the neonatal ICU alert nurses via cell phone when significant changes to vital signs are detected.

Little known and future possibilities include Asthmapolis, an asthma inhaler with built-in GPS-sensor, which records the data of time and location of use. This provides specific environmental information that can help asthma sufferers avoid problem areas. Google and Novartis have teamed up, and a prototype digital contact lens that measures blood sugar levels through tear liquid has been developed, proposing easier management of diabetes. And Vitality’s GlowCabs addresses medication monitoring, an area in which the WHO believes 50% of patients are not correctly following doctors’ advice. Using light and sounds, the GlowCabs system signals users when it’s time to take medication, and once a week a report is sent to GlowCap users containing information about medication use to date.

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IoT Security Concerns in Healthcare

The question of security is still being answered by innovators, though, with the medical data collected being particularly sensitive. Notes Anura Fernando, who has served on the FDA Medical Device Interoperability Council, “It’s very challenging in this rapidly moving market. They have to balance safety and effectiveness and innovation. It seems clear-cut but sometimes it’s not. It’s truly a tough balance.” Inappropriate access to or sharing of such data should be addressed not only by the makers of IoT devices but by the organizations that implement them. Data privacy and security policies already in place will have to be updated to include the broader data landscape that IoT devices touch, and adequate encryption and virus protection systems for individual devices will require continuous evolution and updating to ensure new threats are obstructed.

IoT, Predictive Analytics & Healthcare

With the over-abundance of medical data available, and increasing exponentially day by day, predictive analytics tools offer a better way to quickly unearth relevant insights. Infection surveillance systems are growing in popularity, helping prevent hospital-acquired infections, monitor surgical risks, and predict outbreaks of deadly diseases. Already a $260 million market, analysts forecast a growth of 14.1% CAGR to 2021. Moreover, with healthcare providers taking on the responsibility for longer-term patient outcomes, and often trusted with a single patient’s care over many years, predictive analytics technologies are helping change and improve systems. Using predictive analytics tools, predictions can be made for particular patients, based on their individual information. This method doesn’t rely on the bell curve, and doesn’t have to group a range of patients for accuracy, and so predictions are more precisely suited to particular patients. Additionally, preventative medicine advanced with predictive analytics, impacting favorably on public health.

From wearable sensors to telemedicine applications to medical smartphone applications, the health sector has an influx of tech assistance. The talented, benevolent, and shrewd all have a role to play.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Digital Transformation: Not Just For Large Enterprises Anymore

Digital Transformation: Not Just For Large Enterprises Anymore

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the acceleration of business activities, processes, and operational models to fully embrace the changes and opportunities of digital technologies. The concept is not new; we’ve been talking about it in one way or another for decades: paperless office, BYOD, user experience, consumerization of IT – all of these were stepping stones along the path to digital transformation.

Today, digital business transformation is driven by technology innovation and user/customer behavior. Technology innovation leads to disruption. But transformation is also about how these technological innovations are adopted and used, and how they improve upon a process, to help the user get work done.

The IT organizations and line-of-business managers charged with making digital decisions must ask:

  • Do these innovations bring value to the organization?
  • Are these innovations easily adopted, or is the organization struggling to implement change?
  • Are we factoring in regulatory compliance, security, and business partner demands?

Digital transformation is not just the domain of the “big guys” anymore. Smaller organizations are often more nimble and can realize huge efficiencies by digitizing processes that have historically been a drag on productivity. Organizations of all sizes and operational budgets are looking at digital transformation strategies as a way to improve a process, and ultimately, better serve their customers.

Going digital to break boundaries: Three Rivers Legal

Three Rivers Legal Services of South Florida is a great example of a small organization that made huge improvements though going digital. Three Rivers is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to delivering quality legal assistance to the poor, abused, disabled and neglected, offering empowerment through preventive legal education.

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A large segment of the clients they serve are homeless. As you might imagine, keeping track of paper documents when you have no permanent place to store them is almost impossible. While living on the streets and in shelters, the clients of Three Rivers experience theft, weather damage and incidental losses to vital paperwork. These are documents they need to receive medical care, veterans’ benefits, public assistance, or to apply for jobs – essentially, everything that helps them build a path to independent living.

Digital Documents

The firm was storing legal documents and other files belonging to homeless clients on an internal case management system, but it couldn’t be accessed beyond the boundaries of the office. For legal aides in the field working with people at libraries, parks, shelters and government offices, this was a frustration point that slowed down productivity. And because of the situation many of their clients were in, mailing copies of documents to people with no permanent address wasn’t feasible. The firm realized that they needed a reliable, secure and easy way to access these important documents – and digital was the way to go.

Initially, the firm considered storing client documents through consumer file sync and share tools, but became concerned about the security and privacy issues. Today, the firm uses an enterprise-grade, secure collaboration platform where they can quickly and easily store digital versions of sensitive client documents. The legal team and their clients can access these documents from a smartphone, tablet, or from a computer at a local library.

Transforming lives

By going digital, Three Rivers’ clients have a portable but secure solution they can use to share documents with medical professionals, government entities and others. With online access to digital medical records and patient history, the legal aides at Three Rivers can work in real time with the psychiatrists who are serving their clients, collaborating to make better-informed diagnoses and prescribe medications that help clients stabilize to the point where they can get jobs and housing. Collaboration also decreases the chance of psychiatrists prescribing medications that produce bad reactions in their patients that could result in loss of housing or jobs.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

This change in process has freed the organization to deliver better quality service, on a faster timetable, to people who really need it. Since making the change, the legal team at Three Rivers has seen the waiting time for their clients go from up to two years to less than one month – all because the clients have secure, anytime access to digital versions of their documents. So far, 25 percent of the firm’s homeless clients have moved out of shelters and off the streets into stable living situations – and once they’ve completed the digitization of the rest of their client documents, they expect this number to increase.

Digital transformation is a challenge – and businesses must ask the right questions and make the right decisions about which technologies they’ll implement, and which processes must change. But as this use case illustrates, even a small firm can make incremental changes that yield significant improvements.

By Daren Glenister

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