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When Smart May Also Mean Vulnerable

When Smart May Also Mean Vulnerable
Cybersecurity should be the healthcare and medtech industry's no. 1 priority as we move into the world of interconnected smart devices and more healthcare data residing in the electronic medical record. 

We may agree that political assassination of a demented and despotic world leader as a premise for a movie represents inanity and arrogance at its worst.

We may even have little sympathy for the powers at be at Sony.

However, cybersecurity should be on top of mind of everyone given the bold hack that the movie company suffered apparently at the behest of North Korea.

In fact moving into 2015 and beyond, when smart devices will increasingly proliferate our world and more attempts are made to integrate device data in the electronic medical record, cybersecurity of healthcare information should be top priority. 

I interviewed a very interesting startup called Geneva Healthcare recently. The company is aiming to integrate implantable cardiac device data from pacemakers and defibrillators and create a dashboard viewable from the EMR that a emergency room physician will be able to see and understand. The company has nine hospital customers currently.

Currently, if a patient with such a device comes to the ER, and complains of being inappropriately shocked, hospitals have to identify the make of the device and then call the device makers' sales rep to come and interrogate the device and interpret the data from it.

Having a software tool that can automatically bring this data from the cloud to the EMR and interpret it for busy ER physicians is a boon for them and has the potential to vastly improve care for patients and make it efficient. No more waiting hours for reps to be contacted and for them to show up.

While this is the direction that smart devices and intuitive software should lead us, this also means that more vital data will now begin to reside in the EMR. This makes it incumbent for hospitals and EMR providers to have an unflinching focus on cybersecurity.

And yet ironically, John Halamka, chief information officer and dean of technology for Harvard Medical School, tells MIT Technology Review that compared with other industries, the healthcare industry spends very little on IT.

In fact, the number one security prediction for 2015 from Websense, a cybersecurity and data theft prevention company, is this:


The report says that 43 percent of major data breaches reported in 2013 were healthcare related and predicted that in 2015, healthcare will witness a "significant increase" in data theft attack campaigns.

"The healthcare industry is a prime target for cybercriminals. With millions of patient records now in digital form, healthcare’s biggest security challenge in 2015 will be keeping personally identifiable information from falling through security cracks and into the hands of hackers,” said Carl Leonard, principal security analyst, Websense Security Labs, in the report.

Perhaps its time for the industry to wake up and make cybersecurity a priority. 

Otherwise, it would be really like watching a bad movie play out endlessly. 

[Photo Credit: user KyKyPy3HuK]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI
[email protected]

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