Industry Insights

Connected Medical Devices Are at the Heart of Patient Treatment

Medical devices are becoming more versatile and more connected, and they are collecting and analyzing more data than ever before. This has many potential benefits: improved patient monitoring, faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment, better device design and performance, and improved global healthcare research and analysis. By making their devices more connected, manufacturers can better monitor their products’ performance and update software remotely. These capabilities improve device resiliency and patient outcomes.

How are connected medical devices being used?

For remote monitoring of patients and fine-tuning of drug dosages, to name just a few. Medical data can come from IoT enabled medical devices, wearables, implantables and even digestibles. These devices often collect, store and send data at the patient, systems and network levels.

With these increased benefits come potential negative ramifications. Connected devices are potentially open to hacking, so device security and safety is paramount. Software vulnerabilities are also a consideration, as is data privay.

According to Symantec’s April 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, the healthcare sector was the most targeted sector for cyberattacks in 2015. Hackers target medical devices for two reasons; they are considered easy targets and the data is valuable. Hackers have used stolen data to attempt to extort money from healthcare providers, to fraudulently obtain drugs or treatments, to falsely bill insurance companies or even to illegally procure expensive medical supplies. Data-security issues can seriously damage the reputation of the device manufacturer and the healthcare provider and expose them to litigation.Electronics Industry services and solutions

Medical-device software that is developed, updated or procured through a third party might have bugs that affect device function and data security. If hackers access medical devices and insert viruses, worms or malware, the implications are very serious; the patient may be gravely harmed. One small error in code can also lead to reduced device performance, misdiagnosis or even patient injury.

Manufactures try to mitigate these risks by following the guidelines and regulations set by governing organizations. They must also be diligent in anticipating device security and safety issues in their product-design processes. They must also rigorously test and certify their products and software in the manufacturing process: it is highly recommended that manufactures use an external party to test and certify devices. Once installed, the equipment must be monitored closely for functionality, safety and software and data security. New software code or updates must be thoroughly tested and certified before being deployed.

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Subject Matter Expert, IBM Global Electronics Center of Competence

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