The future is at the intersection: Where healthcare information technology meets the Internet of Things

By Ruby Raley, Director of Healthcare Solutions, Axway

Healthcare information technology has been focused on improving outcomes for the sickest of us. We all read about chronic conditions that could be improved with coordinated care and electronic record sharing. Many of us in other blogs have noted the superior connectivity of other industries, from supply chain synchronization in automotive assembly to customer loyalty and recognition programs in consumer products. Lately, I have been reading about the The Quantified Self movement and digging into the impact of the Internet of Things on Healthcare, especially med devices and care coordination. The Quantified Self movement is being led by healthy individuals who want to monitor and learn from their own biometric data points. The Internet of Things focuses on enabling objects to communicate and report data points through Internet-based connectivity. Of course, you’ve probably read of the new, relatively inexpensive wearable sensors that pick up motion, blood pressure, etc. This application of sophisticated technology to the regular life of a healthy, perhaps even extremely athletic person has gained momentum, and now we see startups that seek to provide a centralized, cloud-based rollup of all of the data points for an individual regardless of the device vendor’s platform offering.

The Quantified Self movement has a distinctly different viewpoint than traditional healthcare information technology in that information is exchanged freely, without regard for privacy and with little consideration of the potential value of analytics. Members of this movement regularly exchange tips and techniques for obtaining the best capabilities from their preferred devices to assist them in tuning performance metrics in their own life (e.g., measuring road work for bicyclists and marathoners). Could these low-cost technology sensors actually accelerate healthcare information technology’s strategic goals of improving outcomes? Are these two movements linked, or just ships passing in the night? What might be needed to enable healthcare information technology to accelerate at the pace of wearable sensors?

Consumer-controlled privacy settings, policy-enforced de-identified data, and decision support tools based on aggregated data points are foundational to the acceleration of healthcare information technology, especially as it relates to directly engaging the patient in managing and monitoring their own health. What if there were markers that occurred in the data collected by these monitors that could serve as predictors of future health conditions? The clinicians reading this may object, as no studies have shown this.

However, I might argue no studies have had the reach and 24×7 monitoring potential of these wearable sensors. Have we ever applied (A) the decision support tools emerging in healthcare information technology around the big data repositories under construction by both providers and health plans to (B) the data points collected by wearable sensors used by the performance-driven consumer?

I see a future healthcare information technology landscape where the healthcare industry does more than just improve outcomes — it actually helps prevent acute and chronic conditions. After all, wouldn’t we all be much healthier if we could detect pre-diabetes in a reliable manner? What would it take to realize this future? Surprisingly, it will take healthcare information technology. Medical devices — including those governed by the FDA — and consumer products, electronic health records, analytics and cloud services must interoperate to collect, correlate and recommend preventive actions. You may say this is a 5-year vision, yet all of these components exist today and can already interoperate with security using API management services.

The future is here — let’s seize the day and integrate health and healthcare into a new service that can both improve outcomes, manage chronic conditions and even prevent those same conditions from occurring in the first place.