What new healthcare technology means for security in the “Phono Sapien” era

Given the exponential rise of smartphones over the past 10 years, humanity has evolved into a species of what the Economist termed the “Phono Sapien”, where much of the developed world is connected to the Internet via their mobile devices 24/7.

New behaviors and even phobias are emerging from this transformation, such as “nomophobia” or the fear of being separated from one’s mobile phone. We rely on our mobiles for so much in life today this is perhaps understandable. Since the introduction of speed-dial I have little desire to memorize phone numbers as I had to in the 80s and 90s; and since the introduction of navigation apps I have little reason or inclination to commit travel routes to memory. Humans are predisposed to outsourcing to technology where the solution is reliable enough and easy to use. For today’s mobile-first consumers, convenience is the killer app, and our mobile devices deliver convenience in ways we could not have imagined even a few years ago.

Disruptive mobile-first solutions exploit new overlaps between buyers and sellers by leveraging mobile technology; the Uber app links drivers and passengers more efficiently, and with a better user experience than queuing at taxi ranks. There is a huge amount of sophisticated data-driven decision-making behind the scenes of these new solutions. Grubhub uses unstructured data to bring order to the anarchic world of food ordering; even processing environmental alerts, local event listings, and weather APIs to ensure food is collected and delivered at the perfect time and temperature.

Phono Sapien consumers, particularly millennials, are happy to trade a bit of privacy for convenience. There is an awareness that “if the product you are using is free, then you are the product”, an arrangement offered by Google, Facebook, Twitter and other giants of connected convenience. The consumer benefits of these solutions far outweigh the privacy concerns of most people. The Phono Sapien consumer is also perfectly comfortable with trusted third parties leveraging their own personal data to offer advice, insights and benefits, for example the FitBit and related personal training apps are truly global smash hits.

Simply put, with new technology we can know ourselves better; and with data collection devices and cloud based analysis we can understand how to perform better, how to live longer, and how to enjoy healthier and more fulfilling lives.

integration of health systems could improve the quality of care

The Philips 2016 Future Health Index measured the perceived readiness of 13 key countries to realize the benefits of integration and connected healthcare. The survey revealed that both patients and healthcare professionals (69% and 85%, respectively) believed that integration of the health system could improve the quality of care for patients. A conclusive 88% of healthcare professionals agreed that integration would have a direct positive impact on the health of the population.

Personal health data, alongside financial data, is by its nature one of the most closely guarded areas of personal information. New connected services depend on personal data being collected, transferred (usually to a cloud based platform) and analyzed for actionable insights. And the amount of data we can effectively leverage seems to increase exponentially with every new smart device and wearable product that reaches the market. Given the personal nature of the data being collected, security and privacy is the key consideration.

Both healthcare companies and regulatory bodies are acknowledging the importance of this collected healthcare data. In Europe the recently completed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May 2018, has been introduced in part to ensure that healthcare consumers are protected.

Emerald DeLeeuw, CEO of GDPR consultants Euro Comply explains, “Any company, anywhere in the world, that handles the data of EU citizens can be fined up to 4% of their annual turnover for non-compliance with the GDPR. This ensures that life sciences companies will be on the right side of this legislation; reviewing their policy adherence, IT infrastructure and ensuing suitable staff training. Companies are responsible for their entire data supply chain, so can be skipped as service providers if they are not compliant. I think the EU recognizes the benefits of integrated healthcare, and the GDPR is legislating to make it as safe as possible.”

Another consideration with our new integrated healthcare ecosystem is the security of our connected devices themselves. Recent high profile episodes have revealed that some connected consumer devices are more secure than others. For example routers have been shipped with easy to guess passwords such as “test” or “admin”.  This means that these devices could be compromised by inbound connections, and then used to send requests to high profile websites as part of “botnet” attacks.

One innovative approach to offering a connected healthcare solution while avoiding these dubious inbound requests was outlined recently at the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, where I spoke with Philips’ John Romero and he outlined the Philips eAlert solution. This hardware device sits alongside Philips “big iron” machines such as MRI and CT scanners and measures environmental variables, alerting an engineer by SMS if the data suggests a repair will be needed soon. The end result is that these sophisticated pieces of equipment are repaired before the hospital even knows there is an issue that needs repairing. An additional benefit of using this device is that there is not an inbound connection option for the Philips eAlert, aside from secure hospital networks. This means that the security issues which have plagued a large number of connected devices are simply not an issue here, as rogue traffic requests have no easy way of getting into the connected device to take part in an attack.

What is clear is that consumer appetite for integrated healthcare solutions is rising, while healthcare professionals themselves view this trend hugely positively. Our collective concerns about privacy and security are being met with protective legislation such as the GDPR, and innovative solutions such as the Philips eAlert.

So will the Phono Sapien also come to rely on their mobile device for healthcare? I would say this is the tip of the iceberg. With the introduction of new data collection technology such as wearables, and ever-sophisticated mobile solutions extending healthcare beyond the hospital, we are on the verge of a personal healthtech revolution.


Oisin Lunny

About the author

Oisin Lunny

Oisin Lunny is part of the Market Development team at OpenMarket, who provide mobile engagement solutions for global Fortune 1000 companies. Oisin’s background of over 21 years in technology and media includes roles as UK Managing Director for the world’s largest social space for teens, and Global Product Manager for Media Services at Europe’s largest network operator. Oisin speaks and moderates at conferences globally, maintaining a parallel profile as film composer, producer, and DJ. Oisin has spoken at over 130 conferences, contributes to The Guardian and Digital Doughnut, sits on advisory boards for SXSW and The Economist Big Think, and was named the #5 most engaged marketer in the UK by LinkedIn


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