Similar to most industries, the healthcare industry has experienced a digital revolution in the past few decades. Digitization on a massive scale has improved medicine in several aspects but it has also brought along its share of new risks. As the healthcare industry’s reliance on digital systems is only going to increase and become more prominent, the need for proper cybersecurity measures in medical institutions has become more vital now than ever.
The healthcare industry is common and often most targeted by cybercriminals. This is especially worrying if we consider the potential consequences of a cyberattack on a hospital and their sensitive patient medical data.
Improved cybersecurity can result in multiple tangible benefits for hospitals. Let’s look at a few vital and essential preventive measures that hospitals can take to ensure a secure digital system:
1. Reduced Risk of Medical Errors
The advent of Electronic healthcare records (EHRs) has been one of the most crucial and beneficial elements of digitization in medicine. Since 2017, around 96% of hospitals have implemented certified EHRs, but without adequate security, they can be vulnerable to a cyberattack. If these records are compromised, it could affect the access a doctor has to patients sensitive medical data.
If there is not immediate and reliable access to EHRs, the chances of medical errors occurring would increase. Doctors and nurses might accidentally administer an ineffective or even harmful treatment as they do not have access to the patients’ complete medical data. Improved cybersecurity would help to secure EHRs and avoid such errors.
2. Improved Patient Privacy Protection
Medical professionals need to adhere to a rigid system of privacy regulations when handling patient records. If a cybercriminal gains access to a hospital’s records it can have disastrous effects. They could expose valuable and sensitive patient data such as insurance information, patient addresses and medical history, and most likely lead to legal action against the hospital.
Due to their obligation towards patient privacy, hospitals are required to ensure the best security of digital records. Many medical institutions have implemented tools such as antimalware in an effort to protect their system but that is not enough. By implementing a more robust cybersecurity system, hospitals can reassure patients that sensitive data will stay private.
3. Safer Technology Adoption
As cybercrime is a massive threat to hospitals, some institutions may be reluctant about adopting new technology. Institutions may be apprehensive due to fear of increasing their vulnerabilities. If cybersecurity were to reach the point where it was more reliable, the industry would experience much quicker and safer adoption of the technology.
If hospitals were free from the burden of endpoint security, they would garner significant benefits from adopting new technology. In general, hospitals tend to consume a lot of electricity which places an importance on the need for newer and more energy-efficient medical devices. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) goes a long way in addressing these issues but currently, even they are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.
4. Faster Patient Care
Improved healthcare security would result in safer and more private treatment for the patient as well as making it faster. When done correctly, EHRs enable doctors to begin treatment sooner, but disruptions in the process can have the opposite effect. It is estimated that around 72% of healthcare providers have dealt with delayed or interrupted workflows due to network issues.
Even a small breach in cybersecurity can significantly decrease a hospital’s network speed. As a result, hospitals require reliable and quick responsive cybersecurity tools that ensure their EHR systems function properly. When it comes to patient treatment, it can be a matter of life or death.
5. Safer Operation of Medical Devices
The medical industry is experiencing an upward trend in the adoption of connected technology. This interconnectivity results in faster and more efficient operations but the more endpoints in the system translate to increased risk. Hospitals need to ensure their security measures are in place before they can safely use these new medical devices.
There are many vulnerabilities in medical devices that a hacker can manipulate to affect their functionality. For instance, if a hacker were to disable a machine or cause it to malfunction, it can potentially endanger patients’ lives. Improved digital healthcare security would be critical in preventing these attacks.
Cybersecurity Is Crucial for the Medical Industry
Due to the storage and access to many sensitive medical records, the healthcare industry cannot ignore the importance of proper cybersecurity. As the industry increases digitization, these issues only become more urgent and prominent. The improvement of cybersecurity measures in hospitals will be beneficial for both the medical professionals and the patients.
Most of the tools required for better security are already available in the market. With a renewed emphasis on cybersecurity, the healthcare industry could implement improved levels of security, privacy and efficiency it requires.