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How not to sell IoT for healthcare to hospital leadership

When discussing an IoT initiative with hospital leadership, be sure to focus on the value the technology can bring to the organization while also addressing potential concerns.

Research firm Gartner predicted that over 8.4 billion devices would be connected and in use by the end of 2017,...

so it is not hard to see why there is so much hype around IoT and how it can impact several industries. For hospital executives, the use of connected devices has to mean more than just collecting data using minicomputers; it needs to improve patient care and outcomes while remaining secure. With the rising interest in the technology trend, IT can take advantage of this excitement and encourage their leadership to consider IoT. But some may be selling the concept of IoT for healthcare the wrong way. 

Both small and large healthcare organizations recognize that the appeal of IoT is in its size, cost and connectivity. These characteristics make the devices valuable since they collect data that can be useful in several cases without large investments in computers. The data itself that can be collected -- from places like patients' homes to the exam room -- can provide insights that may not have been available in the past. However, despite the optimistic view on what IoT can bring to healthcare organizations, selling the rest of the organization on it can be a challenging endeavor. For those attempting to persuade their teams to experiment with the technology as a proof-of-concept or full-blown production environment, here is a list of things to avoid when describing IoT for healthcare.

IoT devices are sold cheaply everywhere

Telling a healthcare executive that IoT devices can easily be acquired from eBay, Amazon or a hobbyist website may be ill-advised. Healthcare executives are likely to respond positively when told that these devices are sold and supported by companies they are familiar with. Price can also be a topic of discussion. IT should never look for the cheapest options when shopping for IoT since, in most cases, the devices will be sold as a solution from specific vendors and the costs of the entire solution likely will be significantly higher than just for the device itself.

IT can customize IoT right in the office

Hospitals are not looking to open an assembly line where IT engineers stand in line building IoT devices from Raspberry Pis in their spare time. Leadership is more interested in how IoT for healthcare can address the different needs and challenges the hospital faces. IT should keep their focus on the impact and change healthcare IoT devices will bring to the hospital.

Open source powers some IoT devices

Some executives may be skeptical that healthcare IoT devices run open source software, since they may have an opinion that open source is unsecure software with widely known vulnerabilities. While it is not the case generally speaking, those doubtful executives must understand that open source in many cases offers a much more robust and feature-rich platform as a result of more code contributors. When IT discusses IoT for healthcare and open source, they must be prepared to argue and ease the concerns of others and describe other alternatives to open source for the connected devices' operating systems.

IoT can do everything you need it to

One device to do everything is likely to be a recipe for failure. There are different hardware requirements for each unique need and, with the appropriate planning, an initiative to introduce IoT for healthcare can focus on meeting a specific goal. This is feedback hospital executives want to know since it presents IoT as a solution to a problem.

Devices are sold separately

It is completely feasible for hospitals to purchase IoT devices separately, from the operating system to the software that runs in them to the different sensors required to collect the data. However, doing it that way can create major problems for IT when it's time to receive support for the devices. This approach should be avoided when discussing IoT initiatives with hospital executives as they are likely to shy away from this approach since it can lead to finger-pointing when problems with the system come up.

Hospitals can save money by not purchasing support contracts

Not having an annual support contract on any technology is like having a hospital without a power generator -- everyone hopes it will never be needed, but one day the hospital may lose power. IT should avoid pitching IoT devices that are not backed by a support contract to executives. The yearly maintenance generally offered with IoT can help address some of the problems the group may face down the road and ensure that the devices can continue to receive security updates and patches.

Securing IoT is similar to securing a computer

The tremendous increase of connected devices within hospitals has put IT on high alert when it comes to security. The traditional tools used to secure endpoints are becoming less effective when dealing with devices that are not Windows-based and run proprietary operating systems. As a result, some executives see this as a potentially risky move for their hospital if an IoT device is compromised and data is stolen or the device is tampered with. IT should work with their IoT vendor or security firms to add a layer of protection to the network and devices in order to ensure their protection.

Just like most IT projects that require leadership approval, IoT can be misunderstood at times. If not described the right way, hospital executives may get the wrong impression of IoT, which could impede its adoption. Selling it the right way requires IT to make sure they address any concerns leadership may have with these devices, but also highlight the incredible value these devices bring to the table.

This was last published in January 2018

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