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Despite Risks, Hospitals Connecting A Growing Number Of Medical Devices

Posted on July 20, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the past few years, hospitals have gotten closer and closer to connecting all of their medical devices to the Internet — and more importantly, connecting them to each other and to critical health IT systems.

According to a new study by research firm Frost & Sullivan, most hospitals are working to foster interoperability between medical devices and EHRs. By doing so, they can gather, analyze and present data important to care in a more sophisticated way.

“Hospitals are developing connectivity strategies based on early warning scores, automated electronic charting, emergency alert and response, virtual intensive care units, medical device asset management and real-time location solutions,” Frost analysts said in a prepared statement.

Connecting medical devices to other hospital infrastructure has become so important to the future of healthcare that the FDA has taken notice. The agency recently issued guidance on how healthcare organizations can foster interoperability between the devices and other information systems.

Of course, while hospitals would like to see medical devices chat with their EHRs and other health IT systems, it’s just one of many important goals hospitals have for data collection and analysis. Health IT executives are up to the eyebrows supporting big data transformation, predictive analytics and ongoing EHR management, not to mention trying out soon-to-be standard technologies such as blockchain.

More importantly, few medical devices are as secure as they should be. While the average hospital room contains 15 to 20 connected devices, many of them are frighteningly vulnerable. Some of them are still running on obsolete operating systems, many of which haven’t been patched in years, or roughly 1,000 years in IT time. Other systems have embedded passwords in their code, which is one heck of a problem.

While the press plays up the possibility of a hacker stopping someone’s connected pacemaker, the reality is that an EHR hack using a hacked medical device is far more likely. When these devices are vulnerable to outside attacks, attackers are far more likely to tunnel into EHRs and steal patient health data. After all, while playing with a pacemaker might be satisfying to really mean people, thieves can get really good money for patient records on the dark web.

All this being said, connected medical devices are likely to become a key part of hospital IT infrastructure in hospitals over time as the industry solves these problems, Frost predicts that the global market for such devices will climb from $233 million to almost $1 billion by 2022.

It looks like hospital IT executives will have some hard choices to make here. Ignoring the benefits of connecting all medical devices with other data sources just won’t work, but creating thousands of security vulnerabilities isn’t wise either. Ultimately, hospital leaders must find a way to secure these devices ASAP without cratering their budget, and it won’t be easy.

Smart Bed Technology Interview with Casey Pittock of BAM Labs

Posted on October 3, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


The following interview is with Casey Pittock, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at BAM Labs, Inc.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and BAM Labs:
I have been fortunate to serve in leadership roles with various companies over the past two decades including Telcare, Philips, and Lifeline that have shared the common mission of helping people improve their health and the health of those in their care through technology and services. BAM Labs smart bed technology is the most compelling solution I have seen to deliver improved care, because it is completely touch-free and can help anyone regardless of setting or age or chronic condition.

BAM Labs®, founded in 2006 by Apple veterans and based in Silicon Valley, is a leading innovator in Smart Bed technology. BAM Labs partners with market leaders to develop smart bed applications and solutions for distribution to Acute (hospitals), Post-Acute (skilled nursing and long term care), Senior Living (assisted living and independent living), Home Health, and Consumer Retail channels.

BAM Labs first commercial product, launched in 2011, is the BAM Labs Touch-free Life Care Smart Bed System which features an FDA registered under mattress sensor and HIPAA-compliant cloud monitoring platform that transforms any bed into a smart bed. The TLC Smart Bed System delivers relevant health information and trends to individuals and caregivers via any internet connected device to improve health.

Where did BAM Labs get the idea to use a mat under a mattress to collect heart rate, breathing rate, motion and presence?
In 2001, Rich Rifredi’s son was born 12 weeks premature. He spent 10 weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit and was monitored 24 hours a day 7 days a week. When it was time for him to leave the intensive care unit, he was sent home with an infant apnea monitor, a device with three wires that attached to him and sounded an alarm when his breathing or heart rate became too low or too high. Unfortunately, the device had many false alarms and Rich and his wife stopped using the device and slept in 4 hour shifts taking turns watching their son breathe. Rich told his friend and former Apple co-worker Steve Young about his frustration with existing wired health monitors and challenged Steve to come up with a better solution. It was a tough challenge. Steve talked with a lot of engineers who said he couldn’t build a touch free health monitor and get enough accuracy to be meaningful.

Fast forward to 2006. Steve and his good friend Jim Williams, legendary analog circuit designer and former MIT professor, discussed a project Jim worked on at MIT. Jim’s team wanted to build a highly sensitive scale. However, the movements of blood flow through the body made his measurements inaccurate. A light bulb went off in Steve’s head. Using a similar approach to Jim’s scale, Steve could measure the vibrations from blood flow and lung expansion to create a vital statistics sensor. Later that year, Steve and Rich formed BAM Labs (BAM is an acronym for Body and Motion) with the mission to provide touch free health monitoring that everyone can afford. Four years later with the help of a talented team and advice from world renowned experts in the medical and electronics field, BAM Labs completed development of a revolutionary health monitor and cloud monitoring platform that is effortless to use and a fraction of the cost of existing vital statistics monitors. And to prove the doubters wrong, Steve designed the BAM Labs TLC Smart Bed System to be completely touch-free to provide a bit of magic for the user experience.

Does the mat collect these measurements as accurate as other devices?
Yes, and we consider our solution to be superior to other touch-free solutions for accuracy, precision and ease of use. The accuracy question is important, and we would like to stress ease of use here as well. If the system is hard to use, needs to be attached or worn, compliance becomes an issue and accuracy becomes less relevant.

The BAM Labs Smart Bed System collects the information effortlessly. Our superior design provides better accuracy than common actigraphy devices worn on the body. Likewise, heart rate is captured at a level very close to an 8-lead ECG, as will be demonstrated in a soon to be published study. Several major research institutions are embarking on alternative telemetry monitoring device studies, and they have selected BAM Labs Smart Bed System as a solution to deliver better outcomes while reducing cost.

I read that your smart bed technology captures 3,000-10,000 biometric signals in a 24 hour period. How do you take all that data and turn it into actionable data for the healthcare provider?
There is a small network device connected to the sensor mat that plugs into a standard outlet. This network device does some processing of the biometric signals and filters the data to BAM’s cloud monitoring platform. The cloud servers then take the data and convert it to a user-friendly display format that can be viewed on any internet connected device, such as iPads, desktop PC’s, smartphone, and so on. Healthcare providers can review presence and motion in bed, heart and respiration rate trends to indicate overall health trending, early indications of sleep disorders, and position change scheduling as a tool for workflow management.

What are some of the stories and healthcare benefits you’ve seen from having so much data?
Perhaps the best story of the healthcare benefits of the TLC Smart Bed System is the two residential care facilities that have eliminated injury falls from bed and reported zero new pressure ulcer incidences. Prior to installing the TLC system in all the beds in the two facilities, they were experiencing several injury falls each month and continued pressure ulcer incidence. After implementing the TLC Smart Bed System, healthcare providers at the facilities were able to identify and react to bed exits proactively to eliminate falls. Likewise, the position change scheduling enabled staff to know when to perform turns, and more importantly, validate that the turns took place, thereby eliminating pressure ulcers. Falls and pressure ulcers are two of the biggest cost and care issues for Medicare. The CDC and CMS have published studies showing the cost of falls at $12 billion annually and the cost of pressure ulcers at $50 billion annually. These staggering costs can be significantly reduced by implementing the TLC Smart Bed System in Acute and Post-Acute healthcare facilities.

Which are the most common ways for providers to interact with the data from the smart bed? Do you connect the data you collect from the smart bed with an EHR?
Nursing staff tend to interact with the data from the smart bed via the BAM Labs mobile app on handheld iPads and iPhones while they are performing their duties. For example, the mobile app will remind staff to perform a position change on a patient at a specific time and require that they press a directional indicator on the touch screen to validate the position change.

Administrators at healthcare facilities tend to use the data reporting features via their iPad or desktop PC web browser. They can print reports to share with family members showing the high level of consistent care they are providing, or show health trend data that may indicate a change of condition in advance of an episode enabling them to initiate a higher level of care. Administrators also use the applications and reporting as a compliance tool to show regulators the level of care they are delivering.

The BAM platform uses an open architecture allowing for ease of integration into EHRs through an API.

Do you think there should be a standard for exchange of this data?
Yes, history has shown that industries that try to push proprietary protocols fail because the network effect relies on open, low-cost ways to communicate. It’s the value of the data, not how it gets transmitted that is important. For example, BAM Labs uses an open architecture and all data flows securely through the internet. This approach seems to work fine for a few notable industries: banking, military, government, universities, etc.

What lessons have you learned that could be applied to the oncoming wave of healthcare device data that will be hitting physicians from personal medical devices?
Make the information easy to digest at a glance. The user interface is critical. The healthcare device data should be presented in such a manner that physicians get answers, not a bunch of confusing data they have to interpret. Devices must be connected to services that process and distribute the data and share clear, relevant information for the physician. At BAM Labs, data is processed in the cloud, reformatted and distributed to a physician’s internet connected device of their choice, in a user-friendly interface for “at-a-glance” information.

Does BAM Labs plan to offer a consumer version of their product, or will you strictly focus on the enterprise smart bed market?
BAM Labs works with partners in the Acute, Post-Acute, Senior Living, Home Health, and Consumer markets. BAM’s vision is to place a smart bed under every body.

What do you see as the future of patient monitoring? What will this look like 10 years from now?
The bed is the ultimate platform for consistent health monitoring. And, there is no need for straps, headbands, wires, or accelerometers in the bed itself to capture powerful health information. Our BAM Labs TLC smart system is completely touch-free – all you need to do is sleep. In 10 years, every bed will have smart bed technology. Our kids will say, “you were in bed one-third of your life and did not get any health information?!”