Almost every day, a news story breaks about a cyberattack hitting a healthcare facility. Healthcare is one of the most highly targeted sectors, and hacks cost the industry $4 billion in 2019.
It’s challenging to stay ahead of malicious actors, and since healthcare is such an attractive target, leaders in this field need to be especially alert. IT teams must protect the vulnerable internal systems safeguarding patient data without falling victim to costly ransomware, for example.
Modern hackers know the most vulnerable parts of enterprise systems. That puts medical centers at a disadvantage because they are susceptible to frequent, sustained attacks. Many of these facilities also lack adequate incident response protocols, and they don’t have enough capital in their budgets to replace legacy software and devices. But with a few simple, smart steps, facilities can still significantly uplevel the protection of patient data.
Step one is understanding all the different methods cybercriminals employ when breaching health systems. Some infiltrate clinical labs by exposing vulnerabilities on their websites, while others exploit lax server protections. Employee email accounts are also a common offender since unauthorized third parties can access patient information through phishing.
One worrisome aspect is how many data breaches are the result of internal negligence. Unencrypted laptops, smartphones, and flash drives are an all-you-can-eat buffet for cybercriminals when forgotten and left exposed.
In particular, there’s one standard device that isn’t part of most health systems’ cybersecurity focus, though it should be: the Multi-Function Printer (MFP), which is an easy target because they’re often overlooked, and because so many vital documents flow through these workflow hubs. Keeping such a large volume of data out in the open is an enormous security risk.
One of the biggest trends in healthcare has a distinctly technical focus: clinical mobility, the use of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and mobile printers by physicians and nurses at the point of care. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the average physician currently spends 15 hours per week on reporting measures, cumulatively costing a staggering $15.4 billion annually. Added mobility measures will be a huge relief to these healthcare heroes, who can then spend more time with patients.
The requirements for devices utilized by medical professionals are exacting and stringent because our health depends on them. Likewise, many devices must comply with the sweeping Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, along with numerous other government certifications. While there is a plethora of mobile healthcare devices on the market, a select few are worth calling out for the progress in their performance and usage. Here are three essential tools for modern practices.
No hospital or clinic can survive without positive patient identification (PPID) wristbands, which track patients from admission to discharge using printed labels and help improve throughput and security. Staff members scan bar codes on the bracelets to access medical history, medication lists, or allergies and then send data directly to labs or pharmacies through hospital databases. Workers can also use PPID to generate labels for everything from charts and bills to specimen containers, so important medical documents and paraphernalia stay secure.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes that give patients more freedom benefit from PPID as well, because the technology is excellent at helping maintain the safety of residents. In many cases, family members can also access this information, and so have peace of mind.
Personal care technologies
Chatbots have revolutionized many areas of modern life, and medicine is no exception. The artificially intelligent apps handle basic but time-consuming tasks, ensuring patients take prescriptions and comply with orders. These tools will save the healthcare industry billions of dollars, so many tech companies want to get in on the action, such as by using text and voice apps to answer patient questions with natural language processing, helping medical professionals stay mobile and focused on their work.