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Healthcare Internet of Things Gets Senate Support with New Bill

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill that would strengthen the underlying infrastructure and regulation for the Internet of Things, a key new approach to mobile technologies in the healthcare industry and elsewhere.

By Jacqueline LaPointe

- On Wednesday morning, the committee passed the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act, which will now move to the full Senate for a vote. The act aims to manage and grow the IoT market across all industries, including healthcare.

Senate committee approved Internet of Things bill

The proposed law, sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), would require the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to produce a report on the spectrum requirements for supporting the IoT.

The DIGIT Act would also establish a working group of federal and private stakeholders with the task of providing suggestions to Congress on supporting the IoT. The group would define the federal government’s part in the growing market.

“We’re pleased to see the DIGIT Act pass the Commerce Committee with broad bipartisan support. Our bill would foster dialogue between the private and public sectors to promote collaboration and well-informed policies moving forward,” said the Senators in a joint statement on Fischer’s official website.

“It would also help ensure spectrum availability, encourage innovation, and protect consumers. We were proud to come together on this bipartisan legislation and offer new ways to foster innovation and grow our economy. We look forward to voting for the bill when it receives a full vote in the Senate.”

The proposed law builds off the “The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things” resolution that was passed by the Senate last year.

Through the resolution, the Senate publicly announced its support for the Internet of Things. It also developed a framework for IoT innovation, including consensus-based best practices and incentives for new developers.

Healthcare providers have played a major role in cultivating the IoT market. From wearable fitness devices to ingestible sensors, physicians are quickly integrating mHealth and IoT technologies into routine care to help gather patient data and improve outcomes.

According to a recent Mercom study, healthcare technology companies that focused on the IoT saw a significant increase in venture capital funding in 2016. In general, the digital health sector generated $1.4 billion in the first quarter.

The IoT market is anticipated to keep growing, several studies have pointed out. The disposable sensor market alone is reported to increase at a 9.87 compound annual growth rate and the ingestible sensor sector is predicted to become a $678.2 million market by 2022.

Many healthcare providers are also investing in the IoT to improve patient outcomes. An ECRI Institute survey found that more healthcare providers will incorporate the IoT as well as medication-based management methods to reduce hospital readmissions and foster patient engagement.

Under the DIGIT Act, the FCC and the federal working group would develop guidelines to increase the innovation of IoT technologies, such as healthcare wearables and mobile health applications, and encourage the development of more health-related IoT technologies.

The DIGIT Act may also help the healthcare industry develop security frameworks when it comes to the IoT. The federal groups are required to address the challenges the IoT presents to privacy and security.

For the healthcare industry, it has been tricky to navigate strict patient information regulations, such as HIPAA, and using IoT technologies.

Behind all good healthcare IoT devices is the promise of convenient healthcare information exchange. However, in a world of ransomware and cyberattacks, networked devices can spell out trouble for healthcare data security.

While the DIGIT Act is set to move to the full Senate soon, healthcare providers should be aware of the ramifications of IoT regulations and frameworks. The bill could influence what new health-related technologies are created and how the IoT can be used in various industries.


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