Safety, security hold up wireless drug delivery

By Brian Dolan

The prospect of wireless-enabled implants that ensure timely and correct dosages of medicine for those unable to care for themselves is fast approaching clinical reality but according to some researchers, the safety and security of these remote intelligent drug delivery systems (RIDDS) still need to be worked out. YanYan Wang and Carey Thaldorf at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, USA, and colleague John Haynes of Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia are set to publish a paper about security concerns for RIDDS in the upcoming printing of the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology. 

"We have raised security concerns in relation to RIDDS, especially in the context of medical sensor networks, because, among other reasons, a failure to do so could risk the privacy and possibly the life of a patient," the team said. "The dilemma in RIDDS makes adoption of the technologies intimidating," they add. The team concludes that, "Security mechanisms for RIDDS must be fully considered prior to the widespread deployment of such delivery systems."

RIDDS are able to closely supervise biomarkers that indicate a patient's symptoms, including blood pressure and temperature. "Wireless control will allow healthcare workers to monitor the patient's health as well as device behavior," the researchers wrote. "They could adjust medication frequency or levels as necessary based either on direct patient observation or sensor outputs."

The technology is expected to be helpful for senior assisted living facilities or other places of care where the vitals of a large population need to be observed regularly in order to grant caretakers time to respond to problems as they arise. 

Like most wireless medical devices, RIDDS could be a target of hackers since the wireless connection between the monitoring station and the implant could allow hackers to intercept personal health information or, worse, disrupt the drug delivery signals with intent to harm the patient. 

Read this abstract from the researchers for more information on security and RIDDS.