May 17, 2020

Five patient concerns to address in your OBGYN practice

3 min
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Baby delivery has changed dramatically over the decades. Whereas it was once common for both mother and baby to die during childbirth, those numbers ha...

Baby delivery has changed dramatically over the decades.

Whereas it was once common for both mother and baby to die during childbirth, those numbers have improved greatly. Fewer babies die and the death of a mother is so rare that it is almost unknown.

However, other complications do occur during childbirth and hospitals are continuing to work on these problems.


Medical Improvements

Many hospitals are working to make baby deliveries safer for both child and mother.

One way they are doing this is by eliminating unnecessary or elective induction. While this procedure has become the trend for some doctors and hospitals, others are working to use natural delivery. This results in fewer injuries or traumas during the birthing process.

Childbirth once consisted of numerous drugs and a rigid system that was more about convenience for the doctor rather than the comfort of the mother or safety of the baby.

Today, hospitals have updated their practices to ensure that drugs are only given as necessary and that the ideal positioning for delivery is used for the mother and to protect the baby.

More hospitals allow the baby to stay in the mother's room and begin breastfeeding whereas in the previous century they were whisked away immediately after birth and kept separated from the mother for long periods of time. The medical staff today in many hospitals recognizes the importance of early bonding and how breastfeeding can give babies a better start in life.

Even more drastic improvements have been made for premature babies.

Not only are more of them surviving, but side effects are become fewer and less damaging for those born early. Asphyxia is one major problem of premature babies whose lungs have not fully developed.

Hospitals are now watching more closely for problems immediately after birth and treating the infant sooner to lessen long-term effects of being without oxygen.


Concerns for Today

There are at least five important delivery day decisionsthat mothers and medical personnel must make immediately following the birth.

These include:

1.         When to clamp the cord

2.         Whether to wash and measure the baby or allow skin-to-skin contact with the mother immediately following birth

3.         Whether eye ointment is needed to protect baby's vision

4.         Whether a Hepatitis B shot is needed

5.         Whether a hearing test should be conducted during the initial hospital stay


While hospitals can be proud to say they have made great strides in the area of obstetrics, there are still some areas that need improvement.

For instance, the rate of Cesarean sections is still rather high at approximately one-third of births in the U.S. The results of a C-section are longer hospitalizations and other complications. It also increases the cost of care. Women who deliver by C-section are likely to have future babies by the same method.

Data on how many procedures a hospital performs as part of delivery is attainable and yet it is not widely known.

Having such information available would allow expectant mothers to make the best choice on where they want to delivery their baby for the optimal care and fewer unnecessary procedures.


About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including parenting and healthcare.

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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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