Healthcare and Its Unique Cyber Protection Needs
Across the country, healthcare organizations are embracing digital modernization – with that comes added vulnerability. In 2019, electronic breaches affecting healthcare entities have risen 20 percent, many coming in the form of ransomware, and cyberattacks have surged during the COVID-19 epidemic. As the number of endpoints, from connected medical devices to mobile workstations, proliferates and patients’ access to health data widens via web-based portals, county and state hospitals and university and community medical centers must often counter the constant onslaught of cyber threats with small IT staffs and budgets. Couple this with the reality that many public healthcare institutions rely on a combination of legacy and newer systems and outdated data security methods to maintain access to sensitive patient information and keep operations running. In short, these are particularly vulnerable targets for cyber criminals seeking to steal data or wreak havoc.
In any industry, the costs of a cyberattack come in more forms than money; lost data, productivity, and public trust are all noteworthy consequences. Nowhere are these costs more pronounced, however, than in healthcare, where any loss of critical information or minute of downtime could have potentially deadly consequences. A 2019 study shows as many as 36 additional deaths per 10,000 heart attacks occurred annually at hospitals across the country in the aftermath of cyber breaches. In some cases, patients had to wait almost three minutes longer to receive critical electrocardiograms. Every minute matters, particularly for public and university healthcare institutions, which often serve the country’s most vulnerable and underserved patients.