Even pre-pandemic, demand for digital healthcare was growing, but for a true revolution there needed to be an accelerant. Enter the Covid-19 pandemic.
The resulting digitally-focused healthcare landscape — which shows characteristics of a fourth industrial revolution — has given rise to worries about cybersecurity.
Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, expressed those concerns at the virtual Cerner Health Forum on Friday.
“Up until this point, [patients] came to us in our hospitals, they came to us in our clinics, in our ancillary locations,” Branzell said. “We proved [during the pandemic] that we can go to them. Now there is a consumer-based expectation.”
But in meeting this heightened consumer expectation, the industry may be opening itself up to greater cybersecurity risks. Just the rise telehealth, for example, led to an increase in the number of devices involved in patient care, which opens up new avenues for cyberattacks.
Healthcare stakeholders, especially providers, are expected to invest heavily in cybersecurity measures in the near future, Branzell said.
“When [healthcare] was in the third industrial revolution, [providers] were worried about the walls of the hospital,” he said. “Now [that they’re] going to operate in a full open [digital] frontier, [they] have to have the same standard of security that banking has, as commercial marketing has.”
Further, there already appears to be a growing divide between organizations that have comprehensive cybersecurity programs, and those that do not. The latter are falling behind at a greater pace, which may result in a cyber divide, Branzell said.
Another way in which the current healthcare landscape is contributing to cybersecurity risk is the increasing popularity of remote work.
The culture of work is undergoing a huge shift across industries, and healthcare is no stranger to this trend. Instead of teams working closely together and seeing each other every day, healthcare workers are now able to not only work from home but from anywhere, Branzell said.
While this provides some obvious benefits for healthcare organizations — like the ability to hire the best person for the job no matter where they live — it also makes it harder for them to secure the devices being used and ensure employees know the cybersecurity guidelines they need to follow.
One solution is to train employees properly.
However, that did not occur last year when employees started working remotely. In fact, a majority (90%) of health system and hospital employees who shifted to work-at-home during the pandemic, said they did not receive any updated guidelines or training on cyber threats, a December survey from Black Book research shows.
But, amid despite these concerns, there is a real opportunity to deliver value as the fundamentals of care delivery and workforce operations change, Branzell said.
“We coined 2021 [as] the year of value realization,” he said. “Meaning so many investments [made] in the past, so many technologies put in place, the acceleration of the [technology adoption] curve, all have positioned us in a way where we can deliver value.”
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