Customer Experience and Design

Identity and the Internet of Things – Lessons for Healthcare

Attending Dreamforce in San Francisco last month, I was reminded of an article I read in All Things Digital about the role of Identity and the Internet of Things. Apparently Marc Benioff, salesforce.com’s CEO, mentioned during a presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Technology Conference, that Phillips, the electronics company long known for staple consumer products like TVs, cameras and audio equipment, was working on a new toothbrush. The toothbrush under development was not just any ordinary toothbrush but included GPS, Wi-Fi and “realtime” feedback on how a person brushes their teeth. Voila, no more lying to your dentist – self-quantification will rat you out with your own data.

While the concept of “The Internet of Things” like the high-tech toothbrush isn’t new, salesforce.com’s forward thinking CEO was previewing a new trend — connected devices are becoming inextricably tied to identity. Just like my registration email at Dreamforce using a barcode to speed check-in and attendance at sessions. My identity Internet-Of-Thingswas tied to a “thing” in the Internet of Things. Lots of my personal devices are internet-enabled as well, connecting my identity to how far I walk for exercise, where I travel, what hotels I stay at, etc. In the world of social, devices like the smartphone, activity tracking wristbands, etc. are creating comprehensive profiles of our “real” behaviors like brushing our teeth.

It doesn’t take a big leap to understand the impact of connecting my identity and devices on managing my health or lifestyle. You can easily imagine a healthcare plan, like Geico does on cars, offering a discounted health plan in exchange for your comprehensive lifestyle profile, or at least lower deductibles for positive behaviors, including taking your medications on time. The challenge will be making certain that your identity is truly linked to your proper information in healthcare systems and there are clear safeguards in place. As the article in All Things Digital states

“And to be clear, trust-based relationships with users means that privacy must be accounted for and the right controls must be in place before businesses start collecting and using this data. With the proper opt-in/out privacy controls in place, identity-defining traits like hometown, religious beliefs, relationships status, likes, activities and social graph can be available to marketers and used to drive hyper-relevant marketing campaigns.”

As the list of connected “things” in our lives grows and uses our identity to tie our behavior profile to our healthcare management, the pressure will be increased for outstanding master data management by healthcare providers and healthcare plans. It is amazingly difficult for healthcare companies to conquer enterprise-level master patient indexes to resolve your one identity and create a combined view of your medical history. While your smartphone revolves around your Facebook username and password, Twitter log-ins, etc. to know you, the fragmented healthcare system must piece together that you go by your middle name, use a nickname or don’t really know your actual Social Security Number.

Master Data Management and Identity Management for healthcare is literally a matter of life and death, especially for people with medication allergies, chronic conditions like diabetes and people with medical implants like pacemakers. Dick Chaney took the extreme step of firewalling his wireless connection on his pacemaker, for example, to block terrorists from attacking him based on his device and identity. While we enjoy the idea of our exercise wrist band taking to our smart thermostat to cool down the house after a run, we need to understand the broader implication of this degree of connectivity into our own safety as patients.

You may laugh the next time that the hospital asks you your name for the umpteenth time or marks the site of your surgery with a marker, but identity matters in healthcare and as that industry becomes more connected like your devices, make sure that your information is correct, up to date and is “real.” It could literally save your life.

About the Author

Enterprise Architect with specialized skills in Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Consultant and a trusted advisor to Chief Executive Officers, COOs, CIOs and senior managers for global multi-national companies and healthcare organizations. Deep industry experience as a consultant in manufacturing, healthcare and financial services industries. Broad knowledge of IBM hardware and software offerings with numerous certifications and recognitions from IBM including On-Demand Computing and SOA Advisor. Experienced with Microsoft general software products and architecture, including Sharepoint and SQL Server. Deep technical skills in system integration, system and software selection, data architecture, data warehousing and infrastructure design including virtualization.

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