EMRs help to keep costs down, say struggling hospitals
Unhealthy modern lifestyles, ageing populations and struggling national health services will combine to create huge demand for Electronic Medical Records (EMR), according to a new report by medical intelligence company GBI Research.
The new report has revealed ICT is to play a leading role in future medical care, as more efficient administration of diverse healthcare practices will lower costs to countries.
Governments are expected to drive the market by implementing national schemes to bring medical records up to date in a technological age.
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Improvements in medical technology are enabling individuals to live longer, and many developed countries face spiraling healthcare costs due to aging populations, which place increased pressure on existing infrastructure.
This is proved by the growing ratio of healthcare expenditures to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In addition, lifestyles are becoming more westernized, creating an increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases. These factors lead to a growing proportion of citizens needing significant medical care.
To counter this challenge, the World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting ICT-facilitated solutions, or eHealth, as key enablers for efficient healthcare services.
Many countries across the world have already agreed that eHealth will play a major role in the future to improve access to high quality health care, and have declared action plans to adopt the new technologies.
According to a study by Harvard Medical School in 2008, administrative automation could cut 5 percent from total healthcare spending, which represents $100 billion in the US.
This can be achieved through the simple reduction of adverse drug events, medical errors, and complications such as hospital acquired infections.
Similarly, overuse of emergency departments and unnecessary ordering of clinical and radiology tests results in losses totalling $55 billion each year.
Massive expense could therefore be saved by implementing EMR systems in healthcare practices, and a large number of government initiatives aiming to capture such savings are expected to propel the future EMR market.
The EMR market is expected to be boosted by the large number of government initiatives taking place globally to transform patient records in electronic form.
These initiatives offer huge financial incentives for hospitals and physician practices who adopt EMR.
The global EMR market is expected to reach $7.8 billion in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 10 percent during 2010-2017.
Within this, the US is the largest national EMR market, accounting for more than 32 percent.
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Why are healthcare networks so vulnerable to attacks?
Forescout Research Labs has published a study on the vulnerabilities impacting the healthcare industry’s connected devices. The research division of Forescout Technologies has published the report as part of its Project Memoria, and it reveals that healthcare organisations are affected five times more by TCP/IP vulnerabilities than any other sector.
Elisa Costante, a software engineer and Forescout's Vice President of Research, explains why this is and how to prevent it.
What is Project Memoria?
Project Memoria aims to improve the security of TCP/IP stacks and understand what the main security issues are. TCP/IP stacks are a very core component of every network device, whether it's an iPhone connected to the internet, or a robot controlling the process of manufacturing. If they're connected to the internet they need to have a piece of software controlling communication.
There are several variants of this software and we're analysing them to understand if they have security bugs or vulnerabilities that if misused by attackers, could lead to disruption of the device itself, and to the network at large. Our goal is to make the industry aware of the problem, and engage with stakeholders as well as the customers.
Why is healthcare particularly vulnerable?
This is what the data is telling us. We have a device cloud, which is like a data lake of device information. This device cloud has a lot of information about the devices, like who the vendor is, what the role of the network is, and which vertical this is. We are able to leverage this information, and join it with the intelligence we have from Project Memoria to understand which devices are vulnerable.
We found that in healthcare there was a huge spike in the number of devices that are vulnerable - as much as five times more than in other verticals. The reason seems to be because of the number of devices, and because of the intrinsic difficulty of addressing the problem.
The problem surrounding TCP/IP stacks is that there is not one single vendor that is vulnerable; on average, a healthcare organisation has 12 vendors that are vulnerable.
Let's say that on average we have 500 devices per healthcare organisation. Then you need to contact 12 vendors for each of these. These vendors then need to issue a patch to secure the device, and this patch cannot just be automatically delivered and installed in 500 devices. You have to be realistic and think about whether each of the devices is critical, for example if it goes down will it turn the lighting system off, or stop the MRI machine from working.
Patches are very complex to deploy. On top of that, the patch needed might not even be available. That's why we want to understand this problem better so we can provide solutions.
How much of the responsibility of keeping a device secure lies with the vendor?
There are responsibilities that lie with all the different stakeholders, and one of these is the vendor. There might be multiple vendors involved, which makes it very complex from a management perspective.
For instance the device at the end of the chain, which might be an MRI, contains a board that has a connectivity module, and this has one of the stacks that is vulnerable, which could have four different vendors.
If the vendor responsible for the TCP/IP stack releases a patch, this patch has to go down the chain. We identified chains with a length of six vendors, so you can imagine how complex this is. Some vendors have good hygiene security and some don't because they don't know how to deal with it - they need training.
This is a new issue related to the software bill of materials, which is being tabled for legislation at the moment to create policies regarding the complexity of the supply chain. We need to shed light on this issue so that legislators can put these policies in place to help with security.
What can healthcare providers do themselves to stay secure?
Visibility is important; they need to know what they have in their network. In the case of vulnerable devices they should find out if there's a patch available. If there isn't, because it's an old device for example, but it's still critical to the system, they may want to isolate it so it only communicates with the devices it really needs to.
Interestingly enough, our research found that most of the healthcare organisations we analysed had a flat network, which means they don't have isolated devices. For instance, a drugs dispensing machine, which you typically find in pharmacies, is connected to a building automation light system, which is connected to a switch. This is also connected to an IoT sensor device. Why would you have all of them together in the same place?
The first step is having this information, which often comes as a surprise. Then you can take action; you can segment a network, and if you can't do that you can control the network's access by isolating devices that are risky.
How can Forescout help healthcare organisations?
Forescout is uniquely positioned to help. We provide visibility end-to-end, which means having a full inventory of devices that includes quite granular detail, so they can know what the operating system is, who the vendor is and so on. Then we enable them to do network segmentation.
This enables organisations to write policies around how to secure their networks, for example if a device is vulnerable specify which connected devices must be isolated, or which device it must communicate with exclusively.