Cybersecurity must become a top priority in healthcare

Cybersecurity must become a top priority in healthcare

As if physician attrition, nursing shortages, and a general sense of burnout weren’t enough to bring an already exhausted healthcare industry to a standstill, cybersecurity breaches have become an inescapable blight on the healthcare system. health. Not only are these violations occurring more often, but they also involve increasingly serious offenses.

Last week, Chicago-based CommonSpirit, the second-largest nonprofit hospital chain in the United States, reported a cyberattack that forced the system to postpone crucial appointments and even shut down some computer systems. offline until the appropriate response is mounted. As the hospital system comprises more than 140 facilities in nearly 21 states, one can imagine the catastrophic cost both monetary and in terms of patient efficiency caused by this breach.

CommonSpirit is certainly not the only institution to have faced this devastation in recent years. It joins the ranks of many other healthcare organizations that have encountered similar breaches, highlighting how vulnerable the healthcare system is when it comes to cybersecurity.

Rick Pollack, President and CEO of the American Hospital Association, wrote in a recent article, “The healthcare industry continues to be a prime target for cybercriminals. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there was an 84% increase in the number of data breaches against healthcare organizations from 2018 to 2021 […] The attacks have different objectives and vary in severity. In some cases, cybercriminals steal social security numbers and other personal data. Other breaches pose a direct threat to patient safety by shutting down or compromising medical equipment and systems that are critical to patient care.

The government also recognizes this very serious threat. Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity and emerging technologies in the Biden administration, said health care is one of the White House’s main focus areas when it comes to infrastructure. of security. Government and health officials are also expecting new legislation in the coming months that will better define the way forward when it comes to the healthcare safety landscape.

The reason for all this worry? Although cybersecurity can cost the system billions of dollars in lost revenue or payments, the most serious and worrying consequence is that it can affect the lives of patients in very concrete ways. If a cyberattack renders a healthcare facility or organization inoperable, patients who need timely care may not be able to get it. Take for example the case of a German woman who was forced to be rerouted to a distant hospital and died from delays in treatment, simply because the hospital closest to her was closed due to a ransomware attack.

At the same time, millions of people around the world and in the United States already have limited access to health care. It is a well-known fact that there is a significant shortage of health care providers, which means that patients often have to wait weeks or months before they can see a doctor. Therefore, when attacks similar to those faced by CommonSpirit occur and cause delays in patient care, it can lead to a significant deterioration in the health conditions of millions of people and communities around the world.

Indeed, cybersecurity breaches have significant repercussions, especially when they can very concretely affect the lives of patients. So, without a doubt, cybersecurity infrastructure must become a top priority for health and government officials.

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