Why A Medical Device Security Risk Is A Patient Safety Risk

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate. It has grown so big that its full scope will remain a mystery to most people. A perfect example of this would be the internet. A decade ago, there was so much you could do with that version of the internet. There weren't so many websites to distract people to constantly stay online. Now it has grown into this vast online environment that allows people to do so much more, from playing games to shopping and communicating. At this vantage point in human history, it's hard for many people to think of a time when the internet hasn't existed.

Consider this too, we are living in a time where we are never a few feet away from a device, especially a device that connects to the internet. A majority of people have mobile phones that constantly transmit to cell towers pertinent information. Our homes are infested with devices such as computers, WiFi routers, smart TVs, and even a voice-enabled virtual assistant that is always connected to the internet.

Even our own physical body did not escape from this onslaught. Procedures to have pacemakers and continuous glucose monitors attached to the body are a regular thing in hospitals and clinics. These are devices that help manage one's health without much human intervention. They are designed to act like minicomputers, constantly assessing and monitoring a patient's condition and administering treatment based on its assessment.

Cyber-Attack Concerns

But these devices are not full-proof. As more and more research is being done on them, it has been found out that these devices that many people rely so much on, sometimes with their lives, are prone to attacks - cyber-attacks specifically. More and more people are getting familiar with this term. It is when a malicious program is installed in a device, such as a computer, to damage, destroy, or cause it to malfunction. Attacks are usually targeted on devices that have the ability to connect to the internet such as phones and computers. But a growing concern is being focused now on implants and their vulnerability to these attacks.

Many recent implants now have the ability to alert caregivers on current patient condition. For example, pacemakers can now contact emergency services when it deems a heart attack is happening. They do these through the internet. This means they have an equal chance of being attacked by hackers as much as phones and computers. What people are more concerned about, though, is if caregivers can distinguish a malfunctioning device due to malware and a real health concern. Several studies have been done where malicious software was installed to pacemakers to cause them to malfunction, shock the patients at the wrong moment, and see if doctors can resolve the problem. They can't. They fail to consider that the pacemaker has been hacked causing it to malfunction.

Studies like these shed light on the vulnerability of these devices. If their risk is not addressed then this means patients who have them are also at risk. It is time for manufacturers to implement a protocol on their products to give medical devices and implants more security against attacks. This is not only a question of morality but of responsibility and accountability. These devices were created to improve people's health; it only makes sense that they also include keeping patients safe.

Author Bio:

Kerry Brooks is an ardent blogger who loves to write about health, beauty, fashion, food, travel and more. She loves to spend her time travelling. She also blogs at KemperMedical, one of the leading national and global distributors of premium medical products including radiation protection products and radiology/medical imaging supplies.


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