May 17, 2020

Humber River Hospital Sets New Tech Standards

4 min
Humber River Leads The Way In Tech Innovation In Canada
READ THIS ARTICLE IN THE JUNE EDITION OF HEALTHCARE GLOBAL The new Humber River Hospital is due to open in Toronto in fall 2015 and is being pitted at...


The new Humber River Hospital is due to open in Toronto in fall 2015 and is being pitted at Canada’s most innovative hospital. The facility is going to be equipped with the latest technology and modern healthcare systems, making it not only the most futuristic hospital in Canada, but also an industry benchmark for all new build hospitals across the globe. The developers behind the new build, had technology and patient care in mind at every stage of the planning process. Once open to the public, patients at the Humber River Hospital will have the power to change their room temperature, control lighting, video chat with their nurses, physicians and family members and access their medical records via a bedside monitor.

The Humber River Hospital is going to be one of the world’s first fully digital institutions and Barb Collins, Humber River’s Chief Operating Officer and leader of the redevelopment project says that for patients, “the control of their environment and the participation in their care,” will be the key-defining factor.

The new hospital is going to have 656 beds and will be replacing three existing sites to become Humber’s main acute care center. Part of the plan during the development phase was to reduce ‘sneaker time’ owing to the sheer size of the development. By reducing the amount of time nurses and physicians spend walking to different parts of the hospital to deliver care, they can focus on delivering high standards of care and can spend more time with each patient. The hospital is going to be doing this in a number of ways utilising wireless technology and portable devices.

Instead of nurse alarms, patients can communicate directly with their carer via video link. Nurses will also no longer be required to record blood pressure, temperature and other vital signs on paper and then transfer them to a patient’s record; all medical records will be automatically communicated from the device to the electronic chart. Considering the vast majority of patients at Humber will have their own room, the time saving involved is significant. And as Collins explains, “Now I spend the time talking to you about what that blood pressure means, not running up the hallway to record that blood pressure.”

Introducing Technology To The Supply Chain

The provision of supplies will also be automated and thus more efficient. Food, medicine, waste, linen and other items such as medical equipment, beds and wheelchairs will all be transported around the hospital through a system of chutes and automated guided vehicles. These supplies will also be monitored using wireless technology, so nurses can locate equipment quickly and easily; it will also prevent a lot of loss. Not only will this save valuable time and money, it will also reduce the volume of administration associated with a hospital supply chain. Currently, there is a huge volume of paper work linked with medicine and medical equipment; this will be eliminated as all the information will be tracked and inputted in real time on the go. 

Safety & Efficiency

According to Collins, the main reasons behind employing new technology are safety and efficiency. High-tech, interlinked systems are not only there to monitor the movement of supplies but to ensure patient care is being delivered in the safest possible way. For example, medication errors are expected to be reduced owing to wristbands worn by patients with unique barcodes that will be scanned to confirm their prescription; the wristbands will also record the nurse or physician that administered the drug. Furthermore, wristband technology will also be able to monitor the amount of time nurses wash their hands for example, giving management data that can help prevent the spread of diseases and infections.

“The care should be faster, it should be more accurate, and it should allow a better link between that medical record and the practitioners caring for that patient,” says Collins.

Keeping Risk To A Minimum

With any large change, come risk, however Humber River Hospital is aware of the associated risks, for example human error when using new technology for the first time. To overcome these challenges, the hospital is putting all of its staff through training on any new equipment, it will be holding open forums where staff can discuss any concerns and it will be operating 24 hour help lines so staff have the support they need during the transition. It will also be closely monitoring the success of its new systems very closely and will be implementing continuous improvement strategies to constantly review its processes.

The Humber River Hospital is setting a new standard for healthcare delivery across the world, and notably is changing the face of healthcare provision in Canada, which in the past has been recognised for its slow implementation of modern healthcare methodology. Humber River Hospital could turn that around and spark a new wave of innovation in Canadian healthcare. 

Share article

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.

Share article