Healthcare CIOs need to get ready for a tsunami of data heading their way via the burgeoning use of wearable medical devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) healthcare applications.
According to ABI Research, the market for such devices -- which include heart rate monitors and wearable blood glucose meters -- will reach more than 100 million units annually by 2016.
According to a report by Machina Research, "Machine-to-Machine Communications in Healthcare 2011-20," the global market for machine-to-machine healthcare applications will reach $85 billion by 2020. This includes both personal consumer healthcare apps, as well as apps used within the medical environment.
Machina predicts that the installed base of M2M-connected devices within healthcare will reach 726 million worldwide by 2020, with North America accounting for the largest share.
Examples of some of these devices include T-shirts that can monitor a patient's vital signs, as well as sensors and meters that monitor a range of statistics, including blood glucose, sleep patterns, and even breaths taken per minute.
"Remote patient monitoring and on-site professional healthcare use will represent just over 20 percent of the wearable wireless device market by 2017, up from less than half that in 2011," said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst, wireless healthcare and M2M at ABI Research, in a prepared statement. "As the devices can be worn and can upload collected data to the network automatically, collected data can not only be more regularly collected, but also shared, analyzed, and acted on quicker and more efficiently than existing wired or manpower-laden techniques."
What does this mean for your network and IT infrastructure? Well, according to Machina's report, total mobile network traffic generated by M2M solutions in healthcare will exceed 37 petabytes of data by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 64 percent from 2011. It's estimated that there are already 40,000 healthcare applications available today, according to Gartner analyst Tom Handler, MD, who presented at last month's Gartner Symposium/ITXpo.
According to Handler, as care moves toward wherever the patient is located, EHR and other clinical systems will need to connect to remote devices. Additionally, systems will be able to collect data that can influence care.
What's a healthcare CIO to do? Handler advises:
- Create a formal strategy for using technology to engage the individual
- Develop patient portals, especially those that are tethered to the healthcare organization's electronic health record (EHR) system
- Provide online scheduling options, refill requests, test results, and answers to simple, non-acute questions, and more complicated e-visits through the patient portal
"Healthcare CIOs should not assume that the needs of patients are being considered as IT systems are implemented," said Handler in his presentation. He went on to say:
This is an area of frontier investment in which the CIO must play a key strategic role in looking at options, evolution, costs and operations questions for the enterprise. The key is to establish a multidisciplinary patient experience team composed of clinicians, patient advocates, community representatives, and, of course, legal counsel. This committee must fit in with the organization's clinical governance and must have the power to ensure that most, if not all, decisions are made with the goal of increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.
Is your healthcare organization ready for the M2M challenges ahead?