IoT threatens patient safety, but regs could stifle innovation

The rise of connected devices in healthcare and the Internet of Things (IoT) might help improve patient care by making data-sharing easier, but it could also put patients in danger.

While many are calling for more government oversight and regulation in the area, others warn that could stifle innovation, according to an MIT Technology Review article.

The risk is massive and growing, Kevin Fu, a University of Michigan professor of computer science and engineering who specializes in cybersecurity, told the publication. Not only are IoT devices being added in sensitive places where the stakes are high, such as hospitals, but “millions of them can be easily hacked and gathered into huge botnets, armies of zombie computers that adversaries can use to debilitate targeted institutions” the article noted.

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Cybersecurity was listed as one of the top challenges facing the Department of Health and Human Services in a recent report from the agency. It noted several concerns about the “information rich” healthcare environment as the country increasingly relies on health IT and electronic data exchange.

That includes the privacy and security of information, especially considering the quick pace at which technology is evolving and the expansion of the IoT, such as networked medical devices and the rise of mobile health technology.

The report cited the continued weaknesses in healthcare organizations’ systems despite the significant increase of breaches and ransomware attacks. Medical device and other systems are also exposed to these risks, according to the MIT article. That’s why some are calling for centralized regulatory authority.

“We can’t have different rules if the computer has wheels, or propellers, or makes phone calls, or is in your body,” Harvard security expert Bruce Schneier told the publication.