Jun 12, 2020

How shipping containers are proving adaptable for COVID-19

Jonathan Bulmer
4 min
Due to the versatility of containers, they’re well-positioned to adjust to the changing ways of the nation’s behaviour
Due to the versatility of containers, they’re well-positioned to adjust to the changing ways of the nation’s behaviour...

It has been a tumultuous few months, with public health worries and economic uncertainty.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s continuing to affect more and more industries in ways we never might have previously imagined.

Shipping containers are often associated, understandably, with shipping goods. But logistics has slowed down, with Bloomberg reporting that unloading holdups in China, when the epicentre of pandemic was in Asia, left shippers waiting for hundreds of thousands of containers to move.

Yet, due to the versatility of containers, they’re well-positioned to adjust to the changing ways of the nation’s behaviour. While logistics temporarily slows, other sectors, including the healthcare and protection industries, are seeking the spacious and mobile nature of shipping containers as a creative method to help.

Makeshift Hospitals

Demand for healthcare has been significantly hastened by the pandemic. With hospitals having holdups with space and needing to keep pace with growing cases in some countries, shipping containers have been found to be easily employable and a new mobile alternative.

In particular, Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds are in demand, with researchers estimating that the UK will need 200 beds per 100,000 people (find this fact) while the current UK capacity is under 7 per 100,000.

Some innovative designers have developed ideas which offer a new alternative for ICUs. Just take a look at this video which shows how shipping containers can be turned into hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. In one case, called the RUAG Field Hospital, an international network of architects and engineers joined forces to convert shipping containers into two-bed intensive care units. It uses a combination of standard ISO shipping containers, along with expandable containers to build field hospitals in record time.

Another design which has been given funding to develop its first prototype is named the CURA - Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments. In the same way in which pop-up shops and co-working spaces can be turned around quickly, the CURA sees all equipment and features of an intensive care unit placed inside a 20 foot container. This can then be shipped or taken anywhere, and ready to help healthcare officials in mere hours - a great flexible option for when you need to scale up. They have received funding to develop the first prototype and it’s currently being manufactured in Italy.

While the field hospitals being built overnight in exhibition centres is fantastic, Chinese authorities found that there can be problems with the intense concentration of contaminated air. While prefabricated hospitals can instead have full mechanical ventilation, in addition to negative pressure systems.

Hospital Housing

Another global issue which is facing the healthcare system is the housing for hospital staff, with many officials staying in the institution for distancing measures. Yet there are deficits globally, and one US-based architecture firm has created an innovative way to tackle this accommodation shortage.

Three Squared is now offering its cargo containers as climate-controlled housing units for doctors and nurses to stay in. These hospital staff can then stay close to patients who need them most, while also maintaining necessary social distancing and hygiene protocols, since they even have electrical and fully-equipped bathrooms in the state-of-the-art container dwellings.

Temporary housing for medical staff who are located close to the hospital premises ensues fast responses when needed, while being able to remove the housing once the demand has lowered.

Prevent Spread in Prisons

Prisons have become a hot-bed for coronavirus contamination in recent weeks, with prisoners at HMP Wymott needing to be transferred after a serious outbreak of COVID-19. In the UK, 500 temporary prison cells are being made from steel shipping containers, with more expected to be built if demand continues.

They will be built in a prefabricated manner into the grounds of seven prisons, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus in these locations where it’s harder to maintain social distancing. Work has begun on HMP North Sea Camp along with others in Moorland, Lindholme and Huber, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Shipping containers have been used as temporary measures for years, but never in such a capacity for healthcare as they are today. What the landscape will look like after the pandemic passes - which it will, eventually - is unclear. But temporary changes to tackle the crisis now may endure into the future, and create a new normal for reactive relief efforts, with design ready made.

By Johnathan Bulmer, MD at Cleveland Containers

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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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