Healthcare and the Internet of Things

If you're unfamiliar with The Internet of Things (IoT) this concept may initially sound vague and nondescript. However, it's actually a complex network of devices and objects previously used for a single purpose that are now connected via software and sensors. These "smart" objects can now collect and exchange data to ultimately increase the user's productivity. For example, imagine your refrigerator recognizes that you're low in stock of eggs, or milk, so it automatically adds these items to a grocery list it compiles.

To learn more about the Internet of Things, click here.

You can probably imagine the practicality of these advancements in healthcare devices. Relating to our purpose at this site, IoT value in healthcare will greatly benefit patients, the Government and the taxpayers by increasing healthcare quality and reducing healthcare costs. By 2025, the total global worth of IoT technology could be as much as $6.2 trillion, with roughly 40% of that value from devices in healthcare ($2.5 trillion).

Recognizing the utility the Internet of Things offers, the U.S. Department of Commerce recently made the growth of the digital economy a priority. Furthermore, it seeks to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for innovation. To facilitate these goals, the Department’s Digital Economy Agenda,the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiated an inquiry regarding the Internet of Things (IoT) to review the current technological and policy landscape.

 

Click here to view the original initial Request for Public Comment

 

In response, Scott C. Withrow penned a letter addressing a few pertinent concerns regarding IoT in healthcare.

 

Despite the Internet of Thing's ability to greatly benefit patients, the federal anti-kickback law and the federal physician self-referral law (known as the “Stark Law”) stand as major barriers to the realization of IoT benefits in healthcare. There currently is an existing regulatory exception to the Stark Law for community-wide information systems that might be helpful in fostering IoT development and deployment in healthcare. This exception hasn't been useful to date however, because there is no corresponding anti-kickback safe harbor for community-wide information systems. 

 

Furthermore, it would be useful to simplify the Existing Stark Exception for Community-Wide Information Systems. The Stark exception requires that the information system be “community-wide” and “available to all providers, practitioners and residents in the community who desire to participate," but these these requirements conflict with the common concerns in healthcare over privacy and security of individually identifiable healthcare information.

 

You can download and read the full comment letter here, which elaborates in more detail Mr. Withrow's concerns

 

In concluding this comment, the addition a new Anti-Kickback Safe Harbor and a simplification of the existing Stark Exception for Community-Wide Information Systems would remove major barriers to the realization of trillions of dollars in value from IoT in healthcare.