Sensors are playing the key role in monitoring and collecting data in transforming medical applications beyond diagnostics to information and preventative care, according to Michael Sullivan, Senior Editor for market intelligence firm BCC Research.
Speaking in a keynote session at the Medical Sensors Design Conference at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose Monday, Sullivan said that today’s and tomorrow’s intelligent sensors are giving the medical industry an opportunity to build a vast ecosystem of medical data by adding a feedback loop. This ecosystem, according to Sullivan, would help to transform medical care from “measuring from outside in into inside out”, moving to a more holistic environment.
“The value of sensors is increasing with the move to IoT,” said Sullivan during the presentation. “Regulatory requirements for uniform healthcare records will require leveraging sensor data. Also, there will be more crossover between wearable devices and medical devices as consumer devices get more medical data from ourselves.”
Sensors have been long played a key role in monitoring patient conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes. Sensors are also used in cardiac monitors, thermometers, neuromonitors, pulse oximeters, and respiratory and sleep disorder devices.
Sullivan expects a huge growth in sensors that are embedded in other devices, including electrochemical and biosensors, as connectivity and the IoT drives sensor growth. But increased connectivity brings another set of issues, he noted. “Interoperability issues increase with the number of devices. Also, the blurring between consumer and medical devices creates additional conflicts because the medical industry places premium on accountability, control, and accuracy, while consumers want ease of use and the ability to connect anywhere.
But the biggest concern is security.
“Every connectivity point is prone to hacking,” Sullivan said. “Hackers can manipulate devices to alter set functionalities and gain back door access and control systems. Hackers can steal personal and critical data about users and healthcare systems, as well as jeopardize business continuity through denial of service attack (the most common form of attack).”
Sullivan expressed additional concern that medical devices would be particularly hard to secure, because they are often located remotely, difficult to update because of outdated operating systems, and even more susceptible to being attacked. “IT security is not medical devices security. Scalability of the security solution is important, with vulnerability spread over a wide service area.”
According to Sullivan, companies will have to develop a “security envelope” for medical networks and devices, encompassing trust environments, secure extensions, key management, and data encryption and authentication. He added that recent technology developments such as blockchain and lightweight encryption could help.