Medical device connectivity is the establishment and maintenance of a connection through which data is transferred between a medical device, such as a patient monitor, and an information system. For the sake of maintaining patient mobility, this is usually done using wireless communication methods such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Goals of Medical Device Connectivity
Medical device connectivity is governed by the ISO/IEEE 11073 set of standards. In order to meet these standards, a medical device connectivity solution must:
- Enable real-time data transfers between devices, or from a device to a connected health platform.
- Provide a simple ‘plug-and-play' interface that makes this data transfer as easy as possible to initiate.
- Preserve the accuracy of the data during that transfer.
In other words, medical device connectivity is not just about moving health data from place to place – it seeks to make that data accessible and understandable across a wide variety of medical contexts.
- Greater access to care. Patients based in remote or rural areas often struggle to obtain quality medical care when they need it. With network connected medical devices, healthcare providers can track faraway patients’ health status allowing them to extend the reach of their services and provide the same high-quality care to patients spread over a larger geographic area.
- More accurate health data. Adding connectivity to medical devices allows them to send data directly to a connected health platform, eliminating the need for manual recording and transfer. Since human error is the ultimate cause of many data discrepancies, this change preserves the integrity of the data and ensures that it can be used to draw meaningful conclusions.
- More holistic health profiles. From blood pressure to respiratory rate, there are a multitude of different measurements that contribute to a patient’s overall health. Medical device connectivity allows platforms to collect data points for all of these measurements and synthesize them into a detailed health profile that more accurately reflects a patient’s present health status.
- Continuum of care. Patients' health is constantly changing, and the patterns in those changes can be highly instructive. The connectivity of medical devices allows healthcare providers to collect a continuous stream of real-time health data and observe how this data changes over time, using fluctuations in the dominant patterns to identify potentially serious relapses or developing comorbidities.
- Limited interoperability. There is currently no universally accepted format for health data that is collected or transferred within a medical device network. While the devices offered by a particular vendor are usually optimized to communicate with each other effectively, there is no guarantee that devices from two different vendors will be able to exchange information effectively or in a consistent format.
- High device management demands. Keeping a fleet of cloud connected medical devices properly inventoried, secured, and maintained can be very demanding for some healthcare providers.
- Cybersecurity. Every connected health device represents a potential breach point for connected health systems. This magnifies the need for strong cybersecurity practices and can potentially put patients' sensitive protected health data (PHI) at risk.
- Compliance with changing regulations. Medical devices are subject to countless regulations and guidelines regarding key issues like safety and privacy. These regulations are continually being updated with new requirements, forcing healthcare providers who use this technology to remain on the lookout for new additions at all times.