May 17, 2020

3 alternatives to traditional obstetrics hospitals

Hospital Leadership
Patient Care
Patient Care
3 min
It's more common than ever for women to choose non-traditional places to give birth to their child.
When you're giving birth, it's nice to know that hospitals aren't a womans only option. These days, expectant mothers have a range of choice...

When you're giving birth, it's nice to know that hospitals aren't a woman’s only option. These days, expectant mothers have a range of choices that come with a variety of benefits. Of course, each option still comes with its own set of inherent risks, so it's important to know what they are.

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Giving birth out-of-state

If you're giving birth out of state, you should know that there are limits to how much and what kind of traveling can be done in the weeks leading up to birth.

Your doctor will be able to advise you on what safety precautions you should adhere to based on your specific situation, including your health history and the perceived health of the unborn child. Also keep in mind that you don't want to give birth while in transit.

RELATED TOPIC: The best US hospitals for obstetrics of 2015

Though many women do give birth to healthy babies in emergency situations while on planes, in trains and autos; it's not an ideal place to give birth. Hygiene is not optimal, and there may not be a qualified caregiver who can help with the birth.

Keeping this in mind, if you are planning to give birth out-of-state for one reason or another, try to plan your travel early enough so there is limited chance of going into labor while traveling.

Giving birth at home

Many women are choosing to give birth at home instead of at a hospital. Citing reasons that include staph infections at hospitals, a calmer, natural environment at home, or even the distance between the home and the nearest hospital, these women have decided that a home childbirth will be better for the baby.

RELATED TOPIC: This personal story about giving birth will give you insight into the delivery room

Home childbirths can indeed be better for the baby, as long as certain precautions are taken.

First, a certified, experienced doolah or other medical person should be on hand to help deliver the baby. They should know how to handle last minute emergencies, such as if the baby is turned or doesn't start breathing on its own immediately.

Second, cleanliness and hygiene are just as much a concern as they are in the hospital.

As the article, “Considerations about where you'll be giving birth” looks at, these should include having clean sheets on the bed, having plenty of clean cloths and towels available that are free from germs and other dirt, having ready transportation at hand should the need arise to speed mother and baby to the hospital, and more.

Giving birth abroad

Some women make the decision to give birth abroad. This may be because they want their child to have certain nationality and citizenship rights, because they will be offering the child up for adoption in that other country, or for other reasons.

RELATED TOPIC: 3 steps towards becoming a recognized hospital for obstetrics

Whatever the reason, it's imperative that the birth mother checks out the birthplace facilities well in advance of the actual birth. Childbirth advancements vary dramatically from country to country, and nothing should be assumed unless it's been confirmed ahead of time.

It's more common than ever for women to choose non-traditional places to give birth to their child. As long as precautions are taken, there's no reason to automatically assume every birth has to take place in a hospital.

About the author: Kate Supino writes about health care and women's issues.

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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