The Significance of Cybersecurity in Connected Healthcare

By CIOReview | Friday, May 31, 2019

FREMONT, CA: Over the last few years, hospitals and clinics have migrated their data from paper to electronic health records (EHR). The emergence of wearables, medical devices, implantable devices, advanced robotics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed the healthcare ecosystem.

The rise in cost and the growth of aging populations have forced the organizations from a reactive model of sick care to a more proactive and preventative approach based on early diagnosis and prevention. The emerging technologies have made it possible for medical device manufacturers (MDMs) to design and develop advanced connected medical devices, which empower the healthcare providers to deliver cost-effective services.

The internet of medical things (IoMT) has merged the physical and digital processes in medical centers, producing relevant data to enable accurate and useful diagnosis. Also, it allows medical devices to remotely monitor patient health in real time, streamlining medical operations.

However, IoMT is not without flaws. Like all digital network-enabled devices, it is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Since the devices collect and share sensitive protected health information (PHI) on open networks, it offers plenty of opportunities for potential hackers.

Most of the medical and healthcare institutions have experienced cyber threats. In the IoMT environment, the risk of data breaches is exponentially higher as it allows medical devices to connect with unsecured home or public networks to transmit information. There are several instances when hackers have leveraged IoMT devices to access hospital networks.

Also, most of the machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols in practice are insecure, making the IoMT devices vulnerable to hackers. Hence, hackers can easily hijack IoMT devices and infiltrate the network, enjoying unsecured access to critical infrastructure. They can even intercept sensitive information and compromise the operations of the IoMT devices itself, thus endangering the patients.

With the increase in adoption of IoMT in hospitals and healthcare centers, it is an ideal time to incorporate effective cybersecurity measures in digital healthcare operations. Securing the IoMT is both the responsibility of health delivery organizations (HDOs) and MDMs. The HDOs need to assess their network security measures continuously. The MDMs, on the other hand, should evaluate the design and development processes to incorporate effective cybersecurity measures into the medical devices.

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