As the rate of technology adoption increases, however, so do the risks of a cybersecurity attack. (Credit: MRCA)

New tools and technologies are driving healthcare change. The rapid adoption of mobile applications, cloud solutions and wearable devices makes it possible for care professionals to better connect with patients and directly address their concerns.

As the rate of technology adoption increases, however, so do the risks of a cybersecurity attack. According to recent research data, the number of ransomware attacks on U.S. healthcare delivery organizations more than doubled from 2016 to 2021 — and shows no signs of slowing down.

Here’s a look at the impact of technology and cybersecurity in the healthcare industry, and what companies can do to stay safe.

How Digital Solutions Are Driving Health Care Change

Digital solutions have changed healthcare delivery. Consider the rapid uptake of remote communications platforms over the past three years. Thanks to innovation and experimentation, doctors can now meet with patients on demand to provide medical advice and recommendations. Patients can stay in the comfort of their homes, and doctors can streamline their schedules.

Medical devices, meanwhile, now make it possible for patients and healthcare professionals to track and capture health data on demand. Wearable and implantable technology allow constant monitoring of key patient data. Patients and doctors can be notified if there’s a potential problem.

There’s also a growing market for software as a medical device . These solutions enable specific healthcare functions, such as viewing MRI images or processing image data to detect disease or illness. These tools often interface with other wearable and on-site medical devices to help provide a holistic picture of patient health.

Risk and Reward: The Technology Paradox

While technology offers significant benefits for healthcare organizations, it also introduces potential cybersecurity risks.

Three common areas of concern include: Compromised data, compliance challenges, connected device attacks, and creating a technology treatment plan.

Compromised data

Healthcare organizations now collect massive amounts of patient, clinical and operational data. Some of this data is stored on-site in storage databases, some is kept in the cloud, and some exists on patient and provider devices.

The sheer volume of data makes it an attractive target for cyberattackers. If they can infiltrate storage systems or user devices, they can steal, ransom or destroy protected health information (PHI). This data may include everything from basic personal information to treatment records to financial statements.

Compliance challenges

The growing impact of digital tools also creates compliance challenges for organizations. Under HIPAA, providers of healthcare services and collectors of healthcare data have a responsibility to ensure its security. Responsibility for compliance always rests with the agency requests and uses data. This means that even if organizations are using third-party services to collect and analyze patient data, these organizations remain responsible for compliance.

If data is not secured properly, health care providers may find themselves facing operational audits, monetary fines and possible sanctions.

Connected device attacks

Connected, Internet of Things (IoT) devices also represent a cyber risk. For example, if attackers can compromise devices such as pacemakers or blood glucose monitors, they may be able to steal patient data or create false device readings. At best, this type of compromise puts patient data at risk. At worst, it could lead to actual, physical harm.

Creating a Technology Treatment Plan

Treating symptoms doesn’t solve the underlying issue. This is the case for healthcare practice and cybersecurity operations. For example, while improving ransomware detection and response times can help mitigate the damage caused, these practices are a bandage at best.

To effectively address evolving issues such as malware attacks, healthcare companies need tools capable of intelligent analysis and prediction that help them avoid attacks entirely. While this isn’t a panacea, it’s a solid starting point for organizations looking to shore up cybersecurity efforts.

Bottom line? Healthcare providers need a cybersecurity plan that treats immediate issues and manages ongoing concerns to provide consistent, protective outcomes.

This Guest Blog was written by Lauren White, MBA, CISSP. She is Director of IT and Security at MCRA , a medical device, diagnostics, and biologics CRO and consulting advisory firm. White has over a decade of experience in information technology and security and prides herself in an ability to bridge the gap between business and technical communication.

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The Impact of Cybersecurity in Healthcare

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