There is some level of risk any time you connect a device to the internet, even with proper security measures in place. This could result in more serious consequences when connections go awry in the healthcare system. National Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues this week with “Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare.” We have outlined some of the challenges healthcare facilities face in terms of cybersecurity and how they can address those challenges to protect patient data.
Types of Devices in Healthcare
Technology has become a presence in every aspect of our lives, and healthcare is no different. The industry has become reliant on internet-connected devices to make operations more efficient and provide cutting-edge patient care. Patient health records are now kept digitally, patient monitoring systems are in place in homes, and people use health tracking apps on their mobile devices.
Specifically, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, more doctors and patients have been engaging in virtual meetings and checkups. Some other current technologies used for patient care include:
On a consumer-level, Apple phones and watches are monitoring people’s physical activity, offering virtual therapy, and collecting data. There are over 40,000 health-related apps in the Apple App Store, offering even more avenues for a cybercriminal to attack.
Security Threats to Patient Information
So many devices that are used for patient treatment are internet-connected and can easily be hijacked by a malicious party and reprogrammed. Without the proper security measures in place, a malicious cyber threat could result in the mistreatment of patients and improper care.
Data transfers between healthcare institutions also put Protected Health Information (PHI) at risk. Some digital systems in hospitals may be outdated and do not have the same protection as a newer up-to-date system complete with security patches. Many healthcare institutions also send health information to third-parties like insurance companies or government organizations, which exposes sensitive information to even more companies.
With the increase in patients during the pandemic, hospitals and other facilities may not have the time to train their employees on proper cybersecurity tactics. Even before the increase in medical need in 2020, healthcare facilities have claimed there is not money in the budget for cybersecurity upgrades. With these and other security issues with equipment and connectivity, it is vital that protective measures are taken to protect health information.
Protecting Data, Saving Patients
With so many potential threats, it is more important now than ever to protect patient health information. There are several steps hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical entities can take to improve the security in their system:
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