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IoT may bring the promise of connected healthcare to life

Can the promise of the internet of things bring order to chaos when it comes to true healthcare interoperability? Two different attempts are underway.

Sometimes the simplest solution really isn't the answer, at least when it comes to interoperability and connected...

healthcare. Two separate efforts have quietly begun to bring the complex promise of IoT to the hospital bed for real-time patient monitoring and decision engine support for physicians and staff.

With physician error the third leading cause of death in the United States, the promise of an IoT, cloud-powered and data-driven safety net has obvious appeal. But it could be beyond complicated to get there anytime soon.

"The biggest issue with the IoT is the complexity of these systems," said David Niewolny, healthcare market development director at RTI, which is part of the Industrial Internet Consortium's Connected Care Testbed, the first open source effort to develop a medical IoT ecosystem for patient monitoring. "You can't get much more complex than this with multiple vendors and multiple products communicating in real time and staying secure," Niewolny said.

That's a big reason why the IIC is making this push into connected healthcare, he explained. "There is no single vendor," he said. "They can't solve this top to bottom. Nobody owns the sensors to the cloud. That's where the Testbed comes in. We've got proven reference designs that are one step past proof of concept that show what can be done with IoT. At a high level, we've put together a true IoT solution for this specific vertical market."

Connected info on a single monitor

Using industry standards and best of breed tech tools, the Connected Care Testbed's goal is to gather real-time patient data, send it to the cloud for analysis, display it on a single monitor in the room and tie it in securely to an EHR. "We want the platform to provide clinical decision support, eventual automation of the workflow, and to meet all the health industry standards for patient privacy and regulatory compliance," Niewolny said. "We want to reduce complexity and confusion in the market."

We've got proven reference designs that are one step past proof of concept that show what can be done with IoT.
David Niewolnyhealthcare market development director, RTI

The actual creation of IoT connected healthcare platforms will be left to vendors; they'll be able to tap in to the Connected Care Testbed's design specs and standards and move forward with something that was designed for interoperability from the ground up.

And for those who think this might be a little too Star Trek "tricorder" futuristic, think again: DocBox, based in Waltham, Mass., has had an IoT-enabled patient monitoring system up and running in 100 hospital beds in India for the last 18 months, according to Tracy Rausch, CEO and co-founder at DocBox. DocBox is a separate effort from the Connected Care Testbed, and the company has taken a different approach to connected healthcare, Rausch said.

As far as Rausch knows, DocBox is the only operating IoT-based platform today. "We've not aligned ourselves with technology but with healthcare providers and we've put together a loop [focused] on ROI. We work with healthcare providers, benefits companies and technology manufacturers."

Real-time data with real-time access

DocBox aggregates all the data from a patient using a series of IoT adapters connected to the in-room medical devices and displays the real-time information on a 19-inch monitor that all staff have access to.

"The whole point is we've structured an information model that's not only real time and simultaneously minute to minute, but we've built relationships between three to four different apps that can have access to the same piece of data in an open standards way," Rausch explained.

The company wants hospitals to take its IoT and data format standards and innovate on top of them to bring in best of breed tools that will allow for truly connected healthcare, Rausch said. DocBox will launch its product in August to international customers and in January 2019 to the U.S. market. "We want to encourage them to start making tech decisions about what they're buying better than what they did before. It's a simple concept, but it's not how they do business now."

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