Digitisation of healthcare sector, a double-edged sword

Wednesday, Oct 09, 2019 08:56

Digitisation of the healthcare sector is important to better serve patients, but hacking by cybercriminals is a grave risk, and great efforts are needed to keep patient information secure. — Photo tuyengiao.vn

The development of technologies such as 4G, 5G, internet of things and artificial intelligence has rapidly changed the healthcare sector’s landscape globally, including in Viet Nam, with more organisations adopting digitisation, according to experts.

The goal is to have multiple affiliated organisations sharing patients’ digitised medical records to provide more holistic healthcare.

Many healthcare institutions are also using smart equipment to carry out conventional tasks. For example, various devices measuring vital signs today are directly connected to the hospital’s systems. Once measurements are taken, the data is incorporated directly in the patient’s medical records without the need for manual intervention.

New technologies have enabled the healthcare industry to carry out remote operations. For instance, earlier this year, a surgeon in China successfully carried out an operation remotely.

Digitisation across the healthcare industry has helped service providers improve the quality of care and accelerate medical breakthroughs for better patient outcomes and mitigate the rising cost of healthcare.

The Vietnamese Government is also supporting the digitalisation of healthcare, launching projects to encourage and enable digital health solutions to be adopted around the country.

According to the Ministry of Health, all healthcare establishments will complete digitisation of medical records by 2030.

According to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) Viet Nam, Viet Nam’s economic growth, health-conscious population and fast-developing 4G and 5G infrastructure provide the perfect environment for digital health solutions.

There is strong interest in telemedicine and advanced technologies and systems that can improve decision making, improve operational efficiency and enhance patient care and experience, it said.

Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager of Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia, said most hospitals were in the first stage of digital transformation, digitising simple data such as patient records, personal information, past diagnosis, and medicine.

But the digitisation of the healthcare industry had led to a massive increase in the number of targeted attacks against the sector, he said.

“The healthcare sector tracks a person’s medical history, personal information, sometimes they also track who their parents are, and genetic conditions that pass down from parents to child.

“Some of this information is actually worth more than a bank card.”

In addition, "the sector is less protected than sectors such as banking and finance," he said.

In the healthcare industry, cyber security should not be taken slightly because any issue could be a matter of “life and death,” he warned.

“What would happen when you need to treat a patient in an emergency room, but the information is suddenly not available. It is a life and death situation. It is actually very dangerous.”

At a recent conference on cybersecurity in the healthcare sector, experts said the consequences of a breach could be quite detrimental since healthcare records are highly personal and sensitive in nature.

If patients’ records were stolen, their private data could be traded on the dark web to be exploited by cybercriminals for scams and frauds, and worse still it could cause tremendous trauma to the patients, they said.

Yeo said to protect the healthcare industry from cybercrimes, it was very important to “raise security awareness not just among IT workers but also users of the equipment, doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers.”

"A lot of hospitals do not have chief security information officers," he said, suggesting that they should focus on developing human resources to ensure cyber security, he said.

The healthcare sector is a critical one, and therefore hospitals, public and private, should start drafting regulations to address the rising threats, according to Yeo. — VNS


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