What is cybersecurity in healthcare?
Healthcare cybersecurity includes the shielding of electronic data and resources from unapproved access, use, and exposure. These data include e-prescriptions, remote patient monitoring records, EHR systems, radiology data, treatment decision support systems, and so on in hospitals and healthcare centers.
Healthcare cybersecurity: Why is it necessary?
According to healthcare cybersecurity statistics, there have been over 2550 data breaches in patient records over the past ten years. It is reported that in 2020 alone, there were about 39 high-profile data breaches that cost up to $6 trillion!
In September 2020, Universal Health Services (UHS) was hit by a massive cyberattack. In response, the UHS had to shut its entire computer network down immediately. And in turn, this limited access to patient data, clinical information, and laboratory systems across the company’s 400 healthcare facilities.
“They proactively took down all their entire network to protect the network when they detected the attack,” detailed Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist at UHS acute care hospital in George Washington University Medical Center. Reiner explained that it became “much more cumbersome to track down patient data in the days following the attack,” as UHS staff had to go back to pen and paper documentation.
Today, the attack’s impact on the UHS is estimated at $67 million. Meanwhile, in a separate cyberattack on the University of California San Francisco’sFrancisco’s online network, hackers encrypted and took vital research data hostage. It left the medical research center with no choice but to succumb to the hackers’ demands: $1.14 million in exchange for decrypting the data, which researchers said was crucial to their work as a “university serving the public good.”
What’sWhat’s truly alarming is that these are just a handful of the different cyberattacks launched against healthcare facilities in recent years. This underscores why the healthcare sector needs cybersecurity more than ever. Healthcare’s move to digital involves scores of sensitive patient data and medical research, making it a prime target for hackers. This is especially true in the age of telemedicine.
Across healthcare applications, telemedicine has become the norm. In response to the pandemic-triggered need to keep patients out of hospitals, the FDA has cleared certain remote monitoring devices to be used as non-invasive devices for measuring and digitally recording vital signs. Furthermore, while the aforementioned medical data networks were previously limited to advanced facilities, they’re becoming more and more commonplace across different healthcare providers. In turn, these developments mean more data for artificial intelligence (A.I.)-enabled healthcare technologies to improve upon. In fact, by 2026, AI-powered medical applications are expected to save the U.S. healthcare economy $150 billion every year.
Unfortunately, while these telemedicine use cases are impressive, every one of them represents a potential area for hackers to exploit. This can be further observed in a rapidly growing extension of telemedicine: online medical training.
The Digitization of Healthcare Training Programs
Alongside basic healthcare services, COVID-19 is upending the training and education for healthcare practitioners as well. Today, both online and traditional universities in the healthcare space are increasingly becoming digitized. This is particularly true of modern training programs aimed at producing in-demand specialist nurses. Designed around insights from healthcare employers, the online R.N. to BSN degree at Maryville University provides an avenue for registered nurses to pursue specializations. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, this fully remote and online bachelor of science in the nursing program helps fill the shortfall in nurse practitioners in hospitals, private practices, research labs, and other healthcare settings.
Meanwhile, the same can be said of the newly minted psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Although this training program will mostly be conducted live and in-person, its informational campaign aimed at potential students is happening online. Across the U.S., many other similar healthcare training programs are materializing in cyberspace. This illustrates how even healthcare training and education is embracing digital transformation. But while this is increasing access to healthcare education and filling gaps in facilities, it’s also contributing to the sector’s overall cybersecurity risk. With healthcare training institutions in the mix, this risk is further exacerbated by the involvement of private student data, school records, and relevant medical research – all of which are irresistible to hackers and cybercriminals.
In short, in the age of digitization of healthcare and cybersecurity have never been more intertwined. As the healthcare sector continues to develop, the need for cybersecurity in healthcare services and training applications will continue to rise.
Specific healthcare cybersecurity issues
Cybersecurity issues in healthcare are an important threat to personal data nowadays. Clinical records containing patient health information (PHI) that can’t be erased or effortlessly changed are an all-in-one resource for cybercriminals. For instance, a medical record can get as much as $363 on the underground market, which is more than any snippet of data from other industries.
The most common cyberattacks and threats include phishing, wrong websites, cloud theft, encryption errors, ransomware, and malware. Phishing is done by sending huge volumes of emails or text messages to users asking for sensitive data by impersonating themselves as trusted sources. They would use malware in the email to infect the system to steal information or a link to the wrong website. People who landed on the wrong websites may enter personal details, which may get stolen. Manual management of healthcare data can also cause a wide range of faults and cyber thefts.
Means of healthcare cybersecurity?
Getting your associated clinical devices through access controls, making solid passwords utilizing letters, numbers, and symbols, getting to PHI through safe applications and online interfaces, logging out of gadgets, and password-protecting computers when not in use, backing up of data if necessary, and so on can reduce chances of being prone to cyberattacks. Knowing and updating cybersecurity and being aware of threats are the only ways we can fight cyberattacks.