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The past year has done more than just remind the world how important healthcare is, it has highlighted the importance of protecting healthcare services and individuals. As the pandemic hurtled across the globe, telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions became increasingly relevant, their value highlighted by the need rapid shift from contact-based care to virtual and the need for patient support in multiple locations and situations. The market also shows that telehealth and RPM are here to stay – the global telemedicine market is expected to reach $185 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 23.5% and a report from S&P Global found that telehealth patient volumes increased by almost 4, 000% throughout the year. This is a technology and medical solution that’s here to stay and has far reaching impact on medicine and healthcare.
Of course, it’s important to consider the technology that drives telehealth and RPM. Devices driven by the Internet of Things (IoT) offer the medical sector enormous potential in refining telehealth functionality and RPM capability. And this is reflected in the statistics with the expected size of the IoT market expected to reach $543 billion by 2025 with an expected global savings of $63 billion.
How telehealth transforms
The rise of connected care and IoT devices and remote toolkits has seen remarkable advances in RPM and telehealth solutions. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality, medical professionals can step into hospitals and medical facilities around the world to provide immediate care to patients in hazardous or remote areas. They can use wearable devices to monitor patient vital signs such as heart rate or oxygen saturation, minimising the risk to healthcare practitioners while ensuring round the clock patient care.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has exceeded expectations, using mobile health technologies, RPM tools, live video, virtual reality, drones and wearable devices to create ecosystems for digital health. These tools have been refined and adapted over the past year, improving how healthcare managed the care of chronic conditions and elderly patients, as well as those suffering from disabilities and who appreciate the intervention of telehealth. This technology has evolved over the past year and is now better at reducing the risks of in-person contact, reducing the need for admissions and emergency room visits, managing staff shortages, and providing people with an alternative to the traditional forms of medical engagement when ill or at risk.
The risks in RPM
However, as with any technology, there are risks. Around 82% of organisations that have deployed medical devices with Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities have experienced a cyberattack, and this is not a trend that’s exclusive to IoT. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted how hospitals in the US are being threatened by aggressive cyberattacks and this is not a new thing, it’s a trend that can directly impact hospitals around the world. This puts pressure on IT teams to ensure that security is both round the clock and embedded into system and human interaction. To add weight, there is also the need to protect all endpoints and to ensure that connectivity is both seamless and secure.
This is a concern that has been recognised by leading healthcare organisations and has already seen significant innovation. One has developed a direct-to-cloud platform that simplifies the integration of Patient General Health Data (PGHD) into traditional clinical systems. It blends cellular IoT technology with stringent healthcare privacy practices to ensure systems are secure and accessible anywhere in the world.
For the Thales Group, healthcare cybersecurity is a priority, one that can be embedded from the ground up throughout the process of medical digital transformation. Security by design, it ensures that as cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated, so do the systems that protect patient, practitioner and medical institution. The Thales solution provides security measures that are compatible with government regulation and deliver an optimised blend of safety, security, data protection and realistically manageable security controls.