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Making IoT Security A Reality in The New Normal for Healthcare

IoT adoption in health care is being led by an unprecedented growth of health data, the expanded availability of computational power, and advances in tools and techniques. IoT has already showcased its potential in creating tremendous value by lessening expenses, bringing high-quality service, and broadening access. Since last year, IoT has helped diagnose and remote patient treatment while facilitating the delivery of medicines and vital equipment to confined areas. However, the increasing use of IoT-enabled equipment and devices makes healthcare companies more susceptible to cyber threats, especially amid the pandemic.

Quick Introduction to Medical IoT & Its Significance

The complete form of IoT is the internet of things, and medical IoT is a part of it. It refers to the collection and sharing of the data with minor intervention. More than 60% of health care organizations are already using IoT-based solutions or looking into them. In the coming years, the percentage is likely to be increased significantly.

IoT is a solution to many medical issues such as lack of toolkit for treatment, patient monitoring, or low medication rate. Medical IoT, the most powerful lever of healthcare's digital transformation, can make operations quick and efficient while streamlining the whole process. Even more, medical IoT has a significant positive impact on the industry and society.

Adoption of IoT in The New Normal for Healthcare

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry has noticed massive growth in IoT-enabled devices such as virtual care and remote patient monitoring. This has resulted in taking a proactive, continuous monitoring approach to managing patients. The increased adoption and usage define the future of life sciences and healthcare while positively impacting all stakeholders.

For example, Kinsa, the manufacturer of IoT-based devices, had helped the caregivers track the patient's condition even before they reached the hospital.

Challenges Of Using IoT in Healthcare

The implementation of Medical IoT comes with challenges in the areas of power, spectrum, bandwidth requirements, cost, and connectivity. However, the cost-effectiveness of standardized low-power wireless technologies and lessened computing costs, and a rise in mobile broadband penetration are expected to lead to the usage of medical IoT. As the large-scale implementation of medical IoT depends on the transmission of patient data and records, it also creates security concerns.

There are three reasons the health care sector is the reference of so much stolen data. First, health care information and data can be monetized. For example, cybercriminals use medical data to create synthetic identities, sell fake identities, and allow someone to initiate a medical identity theft. They can use the stolen information for traditional identity theft since this data consists of sufficient information to open a bank account and get a credit card or loan in the patient's name. Furthermore, they can use ransomware to manipulate health care companies to pay them a hefty amount of money to receive access to systems and data.

Second, health care companies are slow in adopting the best practices to ensure better security. For example, several health care portals don't even have multifactor authentication. Medical professionals are not fully aware of the risk involves in data security. Finally, as other sectors have become more aware of detecting cyberattacks, criminals have found new data resources. Given that most healthcare industry transactions are done through questionable hardware and software, providers need to solidify their IoT security.

Ensuring Medical IoT Security In the New Normal

The pandemic already had a multiplier effect on IoT networks and devices. It has given a tempting opportunity for cybercriminals to focus IoT based networks. For example, Nokia's Threat Intelligence report 2020 states that mobile infection rates are being increased by 30% when the pandemic was at its peak.

Henceforth, healthcare organizations must strengthen their cybersecurity efforts as most experts see this time as vulnerable to IoT-based tools and devices. Research indicates that a data gap can increase a patient's mortality rate by 30 days. So, HCPs need to prioritize IoT security right now.

What Can Be The Possible Solutions?

Share Industry Best Practices Regarding Cybersecurity

When it comes to data breaches, the healthcare industry is responsible for the biggest share of breaches in last year. Hence, cybersecurity in healthcare is essential for normal functioning of organizations. Several healthcare firms have different specialized information systems such as - clinical decision support systems, EHR systems, radiology information systems, and physician order entry systems. Besides that, there are hundreds of IoT-enabled devices that must be protected as well. The starting point can be creating a robust data protection program that informs about the best practices to everyone in the organization. Groups like NH-ISAC, can help in initiating similar discussions and planning.

Roll-out Strong Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multifactor authentication (MFA), is simple enough for healthcare organizations to implement. This small change can increase the cybersecurity of healthcare companies to a greater level. A study by Microsoft has stated that two-factor authentication is 99% successful in stopping automated cyber-attacks. However, it is used by only 11% of the companies.

The key benefit of two-factor authentication is that access to any account is dependent on two variables which denotes that the security is more potent. 2FA is designed to reduce the risk of compromised information or credentials. Most of the other sectors are already using this measure to prevent cybercrime. A large number of customers are already familiar with this technology and won't require to be reeducated.

Experiment With Blockchain Technology

This technology can quickly efficiently record transactions between two partners. As a result, blockchain is being used in specific sectors extensively. For example, Estonia is the pioneer in this field, having started to leverage the power of blockchain to protect its society and citizens' medical data. At present, Estonia's complete healthcare billing, health data, and prescription information are digitally well-kept via blockchain.

Using blockchain would enable patients to quickly unlock and share their health information or data with other healthcare providers via a shareable private key. In addition, blockchain can create a simple system for storage that can be updated consistently by authorized users. This would make faster diagnosis and interventions possible.

Consider Biometric-Based Security

Healthcare biometrics offers an advanced way of protecting patient safety, efficiency, and privacy. As a response to HIPAA and other regulations, biometrics enables patients and HCPs to make sure their information is kept private and shared only by those who have the authority. One of the ideal applications of biometric technology is its usage in creating the IoT-enabled Electronic Health Records (EHR), which provide real-time insights into a patient's medical history. These allow a physician to upgrade a patient's medical history and share them with other necessary healthcare professionals or pharmacies.

The increasing healthcare information exchange has created demands for advanced tools and technology to reduce the risk of data fraud. According to recent research, the healthcare biometrics market will reach $14.5 billion by 2025.

Update HIPAA

Like the debit and credit card security rules, the HIPAA Security Rule and the HIPAA Privacy Rule are the best-known benchmarks for establishing how any health care organization should protect its systems, employees, patients, data, and equipment. These frameworks of addressing health care IoT security would require a consistent upgrade to include the new ways of cyberattacks or tactics.

Get Sufficient Training for Personnel

One of the leading causes of security breaches is - human error or falling for phishing attacks. Health care sector should remind people about the critical information security best practices through various training, strategic reminders, and other means regularly. Last year, there was a 50% increase in healthcare cybersecurity breaches. This highlights the need not to ignore cybersecurity or IoT security measures.

To curb these vulnerable situations, healthcare companies must execute a solid action plan to modify its present direction, such as -

  • Have a secured telehealth solution free from outside interference

  • Invest in advanced cybersecurity measures

  • Hire the right people to educate current employees about cybersecurity measures

Wrapping Up

In this new world, the most imminent need for healthcare is to expand its capacity to treat patients, which will require IoT-enabled technology by default. This also means protecting patients' health information following HIPAA will need a strong effort among institutes and care providers and investments in new tools and practices. In addition, the health care industry has to embrace lessons from other sectors like the finance sector, which is more advanced in dealing with cybersecurity.

For more insights on how medical IoT is transforming health care, connect here with us. 

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