Can Beacons Transform Healthcare Security and Data Compliance?

Can IoT in healthcare protect data?

Can Beacons Transform Healthcare Security and Data Compliance?

There are plenty of rules and regulations in the healthcare industry. Can smart beacon technology lead to better healthcare security and compliance?

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Hospitals are not exactly happy places. Patients and visitors are often stressed and tired, and administrators have their own set of rules and objectives. These rules may be complicated, but they are important to the safety of everyone involved. It is administrators’ job to worry about normal daily work as well as safety, data security, and liability issues. That is a BIG job. Many modern technologies offer healthcare compelling advantages. Unfortunately, implementation is anything but easy. Beacons, however, hold a few key attributes that could make them more palatable to administrators and regulators. Will they be one of the few technologies to make the cut?

Serious Need for Security Upgrades

Hospital funding can be tight. There are seemingly endless costs including expensive equipment. On top of the everyday, hackers also pose a risk to healthcare security. The Internet of Things offers incredible benefits to healthcare providers, but it also creates huge problems. Data is one of the most valuable products of IoT, and it is difficult to take care of. Data is a big, sensitive creature. It requires specialists to look after and secure it. If not, the unthinkable does happen.

According to one report from the Ponemon Institute, 90% of all healthcare organizations suffered at least one data breach in the last two years with each hack averaging a cost of $2.1 million.


If Data is the Problem…How Can Beacons Help?

Data breach horror stories are precisely what raises concerns about the IoT in healthcare security. Beacons, however, have one incredibly cool power: proximity.

HIPAA Journal and other compliance resources put forth the idea of using geofencing to cut down on breaches. Geofencing can limit access to a network based on physical location. These solutions, alone, are not impenetrable. That is why beacons are being added to the mix.

One report from Cisco found that 46% of healthcare employees admitted to transferring data to private devices so they could work from home. Though this sounds like a minor situation, it is a huge security risk. It could even be a HIPAA violation. In fact, security threats often start with small mistakes. Decision makers must carefully direct security measures to keep those mistakes under control. Here, properly installed beacons settings could help improve healthcare security by protecting data.

For example, a physician is on their way to see a patient. The geofence solution recognizes the physician’s location. Bluetooth beacons act as tokens to confirm that the location is correct and has not been “spoofed” or faked. The system grants the physician access, and the beacons instantly connect them to relevant patient files. Once out of range of the beacon token, they can no longer access that data. This system makes their job easier, saves time, and safeguards against data being moved elsewhere.

Beacons Bring an Extra Layer to Physical Healthcare Security

Beacons can also authenticate physical access such as entrances to wings or offices, which could mean a leg-up on liability problems. There are two major ways that beacon technology makes hospitals safer.

First, beacons can be easily added to IDs. This turns them into a kind of real-time key. Managers can grant or restrict access on an individual basis. Hospitals are often very large institutions, and it can be difficult to keep track of visitors. Traditional badges rely heavily on human interaction and only have meaning when seen and recognized by a staff member. Connected badges can automatically grant, or revoke, access when necessary. This protects visitors, patients, and the integrity of the entire system.

Secondly, beacons and wearables make a powerful duo. It can be difficult to keep medicated or confused patients safe. Beacons, however can instantly notify a healthcare provider where lost patients have gone. If a provider or physician needs to know the location of a patient, beacons can help. Plus, beacons can be configured to alert staff if a patient wanders out of pre-defined areas. Several high-tech solutions utilizing beacons are already in use. In one scenario, patients with dementia are being fitted with “Fitbits on steroids” hooked up to proximity systems. This allows others to track behavior and movement. Such solutions keep patients safe, reduce threats, and cut down on liability problems.

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Why Now and Why Beacons?

There are plenty of existing IoT products that would flourish in a hospital setting, but new infrastructures can be complicated structurally and legally. New solutions need several years to prove their worth and reliability.

In the US, HIPAA regulations protect American citizens. But they also causes a lot of friction with IoT solutions. Connected technologies regularly butt heads with modern law simply because they bring capabilities that were never before possible. Oftentimes, the rules (or future rules) surrounding technology can be incredibly murky. Many beacon solutions, however, don’t have to store or collect data. These solutions, and the ability of beacons to act as just one doorway to data, could be a great boon. Instead of adding another layer of horrible complexity, hospitals can add another layer of possibility.

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So Where are All the Use Cases for IoT in Healthcare Security?

Very few examples of hospital-based beacon infrastructures are public. This gives the impression that hospitals are simply not interested. However, just the opposite is true. IoT in healthcare is picking up speed. Hospitals are testing beacon infrastructures, but they are often hesitant to go public right away.  Once proximity solution provider Navigine began looking into the industry, they quickly found the market was growing:

“From the moment we came to the US there was a lot of interest [from hospitals],” said co-founder Oleg Demidov. “In the US it is a very big deal.”

More successful pilots and installations will lead to better practices, streamlined solutions, and increased confidence from users and administrators.

Geofencing alone cannot make a hospital secure nor can a handful of rogue beacons. Decision makers must seek out future-ready connected infrastructures. Visitors, physicians, and administrators are bound to see a huge upgrade to service when innovative hospitals add an extra layer to security and liability. Even skeptical managers will quickly see the benefits and cost-effectiveness of a beacon infrastructure.

Would proximity technology make you feel more at home in a hospital? Let us know in the comments.

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