Cyberattacks top list of 2022 health tech hazards alongside supply chain problems, damaged infusion pumps

Cybersecurity is the most pressing technology issue facing health organizations in the new year, according to the ECRI Institute.

The organization’s list of the top 10 health technology hazards for 2022, which sets out to identify potential dangers in the use of medical devices and systems, awarded cyberattacks the top spot, followed by supply chain concerns and damaged infusion pumps.

The rankings, beginning with the highest priority concerns, indicate a need to prioritize stronger, more resilient systems and practices in healthcare as organizations continue to recover from pandemic lows.

Cyberattacks, which can endanger day-to-day business operations as well as patient safety, slid into the top spot as a necessary target for every health organization, according to the nonprofit.

As the report reads, “the question is not whether a given facility will be attacked, but when.”

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Compromised medical devices and data systems can result in the rescheduling of appointments and surgeries, the diversion of emergency vehicles and shutdowns to care units or even entire organizations.

These attacks pose a particular risk in part because many health organizations have not implemented sufficient security measures to anticipate them.

In an August 2021 survey conducted by CyberMDX in collaboration with Philips, less than 11% of hospital IT executives said cybersecurity was a high-priority investment.

At the same time, 48% of those executives reported a forced or proactive shutdown of their systems in the last six months due to ransomware attacks or queries.

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“Responding to these risks requires not only a robust security program to prevent attacks from reaching critical devices and systems, but also a plan for maintaining patient care when they do,” ECRI said in the report.

Problems with telehealth came in at No. 5 on the list. As many virtual care programs were rapidly launched in 2020 to respond to demand for virtual services during the pandemic, not all have been optimized for care delivery, according to the organization.

It’s no secret that telehealth options have ballooned since the start of the pandemic. A Rock Health survey on digital health consumer adoption saw 80% of respondents reporting their primary care provider offered telemedicine in 2021, while only 44% said they were given that choice before the pandemic.

Virtual care looks to be sticking around for the long haul. Rock Health analysts reported that 73% of telemedicine users said they expected to keep using telehealth at the same rate or at a higher frequency in the future.

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Facilities banking on the long-term potential of virtual care should prioritize technologies that are easy to use and that promote accurate data collection and transfer, ECRI said.

Providers should also examine whether a telehealth solution truly allows them to deliver care of equal quality to in-person services as well as whether the use of that solution is appropriate for a given patient’s needs.

Here is ECRI’s full list of health technology hazards for the new year:

  1. Cybersecurity attacks
  2. Supply chain shortfalls
  3. Damaged infusion pumps
  4. Inadequate emergency stockpiles
  5. Telehealth workflow and human factors shortcomings
  6. Failure to adhere to syringe pump best practices
  7. AI-based reconstruction
  8. Poor duodenoscope reprocessing ergonomics and workflows
  9. Disposable gowns with insufficient barrier protection
  10. Wi-Fi dropouts and dead zones