Internet of Things (IoT) and the Healthcare Industry: What Is the Impact?

Smartwatches. Smartphones. Smart fish tank controllers. Smart speakers. Smart…medical devices?

Smart devices are everywhere — in our homes, schools, and even in medical facilities.

In recent years, smart devices have infiltrated the global market. Not only have smart devices made things easier (“Alexa, turn off the TV”), businesses and organizations across the globe have been making use of these types of devices to collect and transfer information in a faster and more efficient manner.

However, whenever there is massive power, there is even greater responsibility. This is especially true when it comes to protecting confidential and sensitive information. Medical facilities utilize hundreds of connected devices including wearables, monitors, and patient data systems.

Smart medical devices offer a variety of ways for medical facilities to offer better patient care. Unfortunately, many medical devices will lack the strong and supportive security it needs, resulting in the devices becoming a gateway for cybercriminals to enter the networks of medical facilities.

Another vulnerability that can be linked to medical devices, such as those used to monitor a patient’s vitals can occur when data is transferred wirelessly to healthcare professionals over an internet connection. When an internet connection is public or open, the medical facility can be easily exposed to cybercriminals.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things is a large network of devices that can efficiently connect and exchange data through the internet.

How does IoT impact the healthcare industry?

In the healthcare industry, this means numerous medical devices, such as insulin infusion pumps and heart monitors. In healthcare, the IoT can provide critical, up-to-date patient information to healthcare professionals and assist patients in managing their illnesses and improving the treatment process.

Medical facilities that invest in IoMT generally benefit from better patient results, better patient experiences, and lower administrative costs. However, the investment in IoT should not be a one-time investment, the investment will take an ongoing effort on the parts of everyone involved to be the most effective and efficient. The global medical device market is expected to reach $409.5 billion by 2023. As the years pass, we expect to see an increasing number of these devices making an impact in the healthcare industry.

How can IoT in healthcare be challenging?

As IoT has grown in distinction, so have its potential risks and dangers. With IoT, cybercriminals can use sophisticated and advanced techniques to break into healthcare systems and individual medical devices, generally with damaging consequences. Cybercriminals could steal the identities of patients and their patient records to purchase prescription drugs, file false insurance claims, or prevent a medical device from working, leading to further patient complications or death. Older medical devices are also vulnerable to connectivity issues, which can prevent medical professionals from accurately collecting patient information and treating patients.

Protecting the Internet of Things (IoT) in Healthcare

One of the questions that are often asked as it relates to healthcare and IoT is: How can we protect data in healthcare IoT? The solution has more than one layer. First, the developers and manufacturers who take on the responsibility of creating these devices of medical devices must ensure the devices are created with the highest security standards. Manufacturers must know the work is not completed when a medical device is created and sold.

Manufacturers should routinely send out security updates, patches, news, etc. through a secured platform, allowing facilities to obtain the updates they need while protecting sensitive information. Updates and patches can also help to avoid snags with older devices and prolong the device’s life. Also, medical facilities must have strong data security measures in place, including password protection, encrypted data protection, and cybersecurity training.

Healthcare systems that use machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for security monitoring purposes can also increase their chances of identifying cyberthreats and cyberattacks before they wreak havoc. A medical environment that combines the human element and the technological element can increase their chances of maintaining a robust data protection system.

Any medical device that utilizes IoT always needs to have the latest software updates and patches so they are always efficient and effective. Medical facilities should have a cybersecurity backup plan in place, but cybersecurity and data security measures should be strong enough that you will never have to use your backup plan.

Measures you can take to secure your IoT devices

Categorize potential cyberattack risk of existing devices

Healthcare professionals need to know how many medical devices are connected to their networks, unfortunately, many healthcare professionals are not aware of this. It is important to conduct an inventory of the medical devices do monitoring and managing these risks will no longer be viewed as a major challenge.

Create a cybersecurity plan

It is crucial for medical systems to set high standards as it relates to cybersecurity plans if you want to improve your overall security landscape. Medical facilities should review their current cybersecurity strategy to understand where connected medical devices fit in. If medical devices are struggling to fit in with the current cybersecurity strategy, adjustments to the strategy will need to be made.

Maintain Compliance

The security, policies, procedures, and regulations required to adhere to medical standards can be complex, with penalties and fines being two of the consequences of data and security breaches. Within a medical facility, security should no longer be viewed as an IT problem. The consequences of poor cybersecurity now reach every aspect of a medical facility. Therefore, cybersecurity should be treated as a medical facility issue and addressed accordingly. Medical facilities must ensure that everyone is making proper security decisions in every department.

Managing Security of IoT Devices

Cybersecurity must be a shared responsibility among everyone in a medical facility, as well as the patients. Effective cybersecurity risk management should be of concern to all parties involved. An effective cybersecurity risk management plan should include(but not limited to) the following:

  • Monitoring devices for vulnerabilities and risks
  • Maintaining strong software and systems processes
  • Understanding how to assess and detect risks and vulnerabilities
  • Effectively communicating how to handle detection
  • Developing strategies that will lay out how to protect, respond, and recover cyberthreats or cyberattacks

Mathe provides cloud desktop and cloud infrastructure services to organizations throughout the United States. We understand the impact of technology in the healthcare industry and know what it takes to secure infrastructures throughout an organization. Contact us today at (973) 397-5193 to schedule your free consultation.

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