5G and the Connected Healthcare Data Explosion

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By Stephen Manley 

5G is one of the hottest topics in technology because it enables IoT devices to communicate in near real-time. While IoT is already transforming nearly every sector of the economy, healthcare institutions are seeing, quite literally, life-changing results. 

While IoT brings unprecedented benefits, it creates new challenges for healthcare IT teams. Smarter equipment, mobility and IoT is creating a flood of data for an industry that is subject to a high-level of regulatory scrutiny and user privacy concerns. As healthcare providers explore new investments in 5G-enabled technologies, they need to consider how their data protection must also evolve.

The future of healthcare 

IoT and connected devices enable doctors and nurses to do their jobs better. For instance, low-latency connectivity enables doctors to train using a VR headset and digitally twinned devices. Robot-assisted procedures enable doctors and nurses to operate more efficiently and precisely. Soon, doctors will be able to use haptic gloves to control robot arms that operate on patients who are thousands of miles away. 

5G is also advancing telehealth and home monitoring to provide better care for vulnerable patients. Home monitoring systems, a mix of wearable devices and sensors stationed around the home, gather round-the-clock data on health and vitals. The systems monitor heart function, blood pressure, blood sugar, and even in-home accidents. Constant supervision enables both rapid response to emergencies and better long-term analytics. With so much patient data available, doctor-patient visits can be conducted remotely, so at-risk individuals don’t need to travel to a doctor’s office as often. 

The combination of IoT and 5G will unleash the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine. By pulling data from millions of devices, AI and machine learning (ML) will have enough information to develop models to assist in predicting and diagnosing conditions. The technology can even help prescribe personalized preventative care. With IoT and 5G, doctors can use AI/ML to augment the care they provide to patients. 

The future of healthcare data protection

As healthcare providers leverage 5G, they will struggle to protect their data and user privacy. IoT creates “small data sprawl” because medical data will be stored in devices, local medical facilities, data centers, and cloud. Regardless of location, all data will need to be protected because while technology is changing, regulations are not. For HIPAA compliance, health organizations must protect the privacy, security and integrity of an individual’s health information. GDPR and CCPA add further privacy and discovery requirements. With more data, locations, and requirements, traditional data protection cannot scale. 

AI/ML will add requirements for reproducibility. Many healthcare providers have stipulated that, at any point in the future, they must be able to reproduce historical results from their AI tools. Only then can they analyze and explain prior treatment recommendations. Therefore, they must “snapshot” their entire environment – both the AI algorithm and the data. Traditional backup tools cannot protect both the data and the environment.

SaaS data protection can backup and secure IoT devices spread across a 5G network. The cloud can connect with IoT devices around the world, centralize management while using regional locations to comply with local regulations, and efficiently identify personal health information (PHI) in vast datasets. A SaaS solution automates the protection of both data and a complex environment that will be subject to even more challenging regulations. SaaS data protection in the cloud frees the IT team to focus on helping improve patient care, instead of slowing down innovation.

The future is here

Health care providers are revolutionizing medical care by embracing IoT and 5G technology. To fuel the innovation, there will be more personal health information stored in more places. To protect patients’ privacy as well as their health, regulations will also continue to evolve. To keep pace, IT teams need to embrace next-generation SaaS data protection, so they can manage “small data sprawl,” exponential data growth, complex environments, and ever-changing regional regulations. Next-generation data protection can free health care providers to innovate and use IoT and 5G to save lives.

Stephen Manley is Chief Technologist of Druva. 

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