New tip sheet outlines what reporters should ask about security risks of medical devices

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Photo: Dennis Skley via Flickr

The global ransomware attack involving WannaCry earlier this month exposed the vulnerabilities of computer systems worldwide.

But there’s one area even more at risk: medical devices. And that risk is growing, experts warn.

In a new AHCJ tip sheet, I describe how medical device security has become a growing concern and why journalists should pay attention. It’s not just a matter of a hospital’s bottom line. As medical devices move from the hospital to outpatient settings and home, their vulnerability affects patient safety and security. Also, medical devices are moving inward – in the form of implantable devices that may be vulnerable to outside influence.

As Adam Brand, director of privacy and security for Protiviti, a global consulting firm, explained at the HIMSS Privacy and Security Forum in San Francisco last week: “Malicious intent is not a prerequisite for a poor patient outcome.”

The medical device sector is a nearly $400 billion market and, with an aging global population, is expected to grow. The Food and Drug Administration just held a workshop on medical device security and is expected to issue a report based on the event by the end of the year.

In the meantime, reporters interested in expanding their coverage of patient safety can do a lot to educate the public on medical device security.

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