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The Hack is Coming: Cybersecurity and Healthcare

 

In a recent listicle describing challenges common to doctors, Medical Economics laid out the usual1: staffing issues, insurance and contract negotiations, patient satisfaction drops, and malpractice lawsuits. However a couple stood out, things like marketing and technology concerns. While these go hand in hand, another pressing concern emerging from the lack of intuitive and effective technological interfaces in healthcare is cyber-security.

It’s no secret how behind the medical field is in adapting to the latest advancements in technology and computing. Workflows are clunky, data storage is archaic and often times redundant between physical and digital formats, and processes are poorly implemented. Healthcare hasn’t kept up with the times. And how could they? The training and schooling necessary to successfully implement these new standards of practice are inaccessible due to time constraints and burn-out. Doctors aren’t equipped to both be doctors and experts on technology, it’s too much.

One major burden this creates is a lack of awareness regarding cybersecurity. The AMA reports that 83% of physicians have been the target of a hack or cyber-attack2. There are also few, if any government regulations regarding the level of protection doctors must implement to protect patient information digitally. HIPAA regulates the sharing of information, not how it’s stored or protected.

The same AMA piece cites a report released by a government task force formed to tackle the issue:

“A June 2017 report by the congressionally mandated Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force found “health care cybersecurity is a key public health concern that needs immediate and aggressive attention,” and that, “most importantly, cybersecurity attacks disrupt patient care.” The 88-page document underscores the risk to medical care delivered in smaller settings, which are especially vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals.“

In response to growing concerns, the Department of Health and Human services has put together guidelines and guidance tailored towards physicians and their practices improving cybersecurity. More information and access can be found here: https://405d.hhs.gov/public/navigation/home

 

 

Written by Jeremiah Ockunzzi, courtesy of Dr. Bart Rademaker, MD.

 

 

1) https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/top-10-challenges-facing-physicians-2020?page=6

2) https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/sustainability/8-10-doctors-have-experienced-cyberattack-practice

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