By Stefan Spendrup, Vice President of Enterprise Mobility Northern and Western Europe at SOTI
It’s hard, if not impossible, to think of a time when more attention has been paid to healthcare. While the government and the National Health Service (NHS) throw every resource possible at meeting the demands of caring for those struck down with COVID-19, it’s also important to look at how general healthcare standards can be improved and made more efficient to ease the wider burden on care providers.
The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile technologies are accelerating the pace of change and offer great opportunities to advance healthcare, as well as providing the potential to deliver significant savings for the NHS. However, they also present numerous risks and challenges that need to be overcome.
The growth of IoT in healthcare will see billions of new devices and endpoints in use, containing a diverse range of features, connections, standards and protocols. Some of these devices may be simple, like touchless or smart thermometers, and their security risks low. Other devices may carry sensitive patient data with far more risk attached.
Picture a hundred of these thermometers in an average hospital however, all connected to the network in order to communicate temperature readings to a centralized patient record. If these devices are improperly managed and left unsecure, that leaves a hundred open endpoints that can be exploited in a cyberattack.
Healthcare providers will need to take steps to ensure they understand where best to deploy cutting-edge mobile technology, and that they have the necessary security protocols and systems in place to balance the positive benefits with the associated risks. So, what specifically do healthcare providers need to consider?
Delivering a high quality service is a priority
In critical healthcare environments, there are countless time-consuming demands that are placed on workers. From admitting patients, to managing medication and medical records, there are many tasks that put a strain on a healthcare professional’s ability to work efficiently and provide a high level of care.
There are numerous advantages to implementing mobile technology to healthcare service processes. Providing healthcare staff with the latest mobile technology enables workers to monitor, document and communicate with simplicity and precision, delivering accurate and more efficient patient care.
According to research, the majority of healthcare providers believe that access to information (46%) and system usability (47%) are top priorities. Easy access and usability will enable health providers to offer a quick and convenient service to their patients.
With the proper integration of digital technologies, healthcare facilities will in turn be able to deliver high quality service to all patients with a greater rate of accuracy.
The vulnerability in the sector
While the benefits of adopting mobile technologies that enable workers to create efficiencies and support enhanced levels of patient care provide tangible benefits in the healthcare sector, the growth in the number of devices handling private patient information also presents data security risks.
Every day there are around 65,000 attempts to hack small to medium sized businesses in the UK, and cybersecurity experts have previously warned that healthcare data is a growing target for hackers. Across the country there has been a rise in attacks on healthcare databases, with recent reports stating that last year, 67% of healthcare organisations experienced a cybersecurity incident.
In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack cost the NHS £92 million in cancelled appointments after it forced healthcare providers to go offline. This highlights the vulnerability within the sector to cyberattacks.
Any growth in cyberattacks directed at the healthcare sector puts both the health and private information of many people at risk. Currently, the NHS infrastructure for data storage, access to health data and information sharing has been rated as just 5 out of 10. The main concerns for interviewees were digital maturity and cybersecurity. This lack of confidence should send alarm bells ringing.
A recent report from SOTI, Racing Towards the Future of Enterprise Mobility, revealed that today, only 35% of IT administrators in the healthcare industry manage imaging, medical or scientific technology. However, we know mobile technology is found in every corner of the industry, so it is imperative a connected business-critical mobile strategy is in place well before those devices are deployed in a healthcare environment. Any increase in cyberattacks aimed at the healthcare sector can impact the confidentiality of patients, and indirectly result in negative health outcomes if critical patient data is lost or compromised in the process.
The same report from SOTI also revealed that 80% of those working in healthcare roles believe their top business priority is to provide real-time services to workers in the field. Healthcare industry leaders must acknowledge that providing real-times services to workers in the field includes equipping them with connected mobile technologies that enable them to deliver consistent quality care to their patients.
This further includes providing workers in the field the appropriate channels of support whenever they are experiencing mobile device issues, anywhere and anytime. This trend towards remotely sharing critical information in real-time is unlikely to decrease, further underscoring the importance of managing and securing mobile devices for healthcare workers.
Business-critical mobile strategy
A business-critical mobility solution that integrates all healthcare digital platforms and devices ensuring system reliability and security, is therefore essential. With the ability to be managed remotely, today’s advanced mobility solutions can lockdown missing or compromised devices and can create user personas, with different levels of security access. This means that the same device can be used by different employees, on different shifts, giving them access to the specific level of information they need for their role, without creating any unnecessary security risks.
The implementation of mobility is creating workflow efficiencies and enhancing patient care in the healthcare sector. However, the growth in the number of mobile devices used in healthcare does not come without security risks. As healthcare providers become more reliant on digital systems and data, they must always ensure the security and availability of this information to protect the quality of healthcare.