IoT Can Revolutionize Healthcare, But Security Is Key

The Internet of things (IoT) is revolutionizing varied industries but health care in specific stands the most to gain or lose. The race to replace paper with digital files, the growing practice of tele-medicine, the ubiquity of mobile devices and the increasing connections of sensitive patient information to the web, has changed the way how we see the ill, treat the sick and research new medicines. Now has come the time that it’s no surprise that these advances may increase healthcare quality and availability. However at the same time, it increases the chances for cybercrimes and ends up putting the most such vulnerable data from the modern biology labs and experiment med-warehouses at risk.There is no doubt when we say that the Internet of Things (IoT) holds tremendous promise in healthcare by potentially enabling digital health revolution and advanced patient-care delivery.

Some stats and surveys validates the same:

However, the potential of internet of things in healthcare domain won’t be realized unless data integrity and security are built onto the foundations of the IoT movement.

Will Microsoft Azure IoT Suite live up to the expectations?

Possible Threats Areas and Mitigating Risks:

The noticeable challenges faced by healthcare organizations today are cyber threats (new directed threat scenarios can be categorized as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)) which have increased and evolved by cyber criminals and hacktivists. This varies from earlier days when many attacks and frauds were carried out by individuals simply looking to demonstrate their computer hacking skills by disrupting company websites or their networks.

  • Biomedical Devices: Electronic Medical Records (EMR) — the digital version of a patient’s paper chart which contains medical and treatment history is definitely the hot wave of wonders by IoT in healthcare domain. These are among some biomedical devices which are vulnerable to unidentified security threats. The unidentified security threats can affect patient safety as well as the privacy of data on devices and networked systems. In order to combat the risk of these sophisticated computers being hacked, the devices must be kept up to date with security patches. Antivirus software should be current.
  • System Implementation: There are many healthcare organizations which are susceptible to risks related to the implementation of electronic health record (EHR), financial, and other business systems. Organizations are bound to follow stringent deadlines for implementing systems. It is advisable to perform post implementation audits in order to confirm that the relevant system was implemented in accordance with the management’s intentions. The same needs to cross-verified for the issues of security, user access and encryption.
  • Machine-to-machine communication: IoT comes with a major shift from human-to-machine communications to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. How these machines “talk” to each other and share data instantly is quite different from how humans communicate with machines. Hence, as many healthcare companies implement connected devices policy, they must ensure they are able to monitor all activities across their network which definitely must include M2M communications, this would help identify and stop attacks.
  • Health Information Exchanges: Health information exchanges (HIEs) make patient information electronically available across organizations within a region, community, or hospital system. Hence, there is a paramount rise in privacy and data security concerns. These risks are compounded by numerous systems and organizations involved. To ensure data security, HIE’s security practices must be followed religiously hence it becomes imperative to establish a common security framework to be used consistently across the organizations.
  • Device manufacturers: Device manufacturers also play a critical role while we are addressing security during the product development cycle. These manufacturers must ensure that they provide information security professionals with complete visibility into how the devices they design collect and share data with humans and other machines. This is a great resort while we are on spree of mitigating risks in an IoT in healthcare domain.
  • HIPAA Security: Of course last but not the least, HIPPA the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) remains an area of significant risk for healthcare organizations. Maintaining the security of protected health information is challenging. Organizations must have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to comply with HIPAA requirements, including technical, physical, and administrative safeguards. Supported documentation demonstrating adherence to policies should be retained.

With this we can conclude that the necessary infrastructure to properly manage and optimize the proliferation of connected devices in healthcare domain starts with security. A strong strategy is required with includes authentication technologies and processes to verify patient and provider identities. This also validates that these devices can only be used by authorized users. Proper surety must be taken that there is complete integrity of the information which flows through communication channels between the devices with the IoT environment. Putting these security building blocks at the correct places helps in creating a closed and security loop system hence patients and provider can securely interact and in a more meaningful and engaging way.

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