Cybersecurity threats named top health technology hazard for 2019

Cybersecurity and hacking threats were named the top technology hazard healthcare organizations are expected to face in 2019.

The ECRI Institute, a patient safety and medical technology research organization, released its 2019 Health Technology Hazards on Monday, Oct. 1.

The annual report lists top technology hazards healthcare leaders should give priority attention to. To create the list, the organization’s analysts nominate topics for consideration. Its professionals and advisers later review the topics and select their top 10 hazards.

    “It serves as a starting point for discussions, helping healthcare organizations plan and prioritize their patient safety records,” the ECRI Institute said in a statement.

    With cybersecurity being a growing issue facing the healthcare industry, the report listed hackers' ability to exploit remote access to infiltrate a network as its top hazard. According to the report, cyber attacks can disrupt healthcare operations, expose or compromise data and put patients at risk.

    “Remote access systems are a common target because they are, by nature, publicly accessible,” the report said. “Attackers take advantage of unmaintained and vulnerable remote access systems to infiltrate an organization’s network. Once they gain access—whether through medical or nonmedical assets—attackers can move to other connected devices or systems, installing ransomware or other malware, stealing data or rendering it unusable, or hijacking computing resources for other purposes, such as to generate cryptocurrency.”

      The organization encouraged healthcare organizations to implement multiple cybersecurity practices—like having a strong password policy, logging system access and maintaining and patching systems—to ensure remote access points are protected.

      The complete top 10 rankings were:

      1. Hackers can exploit remote access to systems, disrupting healthcare operations.
      2. Clean mattresses can ooze body fluids onto patients.
      3. Retained sponges persist as a surgical complication despite manual counts.
      4. Improperly set ventilator alarms put patients at risk for hypoxic brain injury or death.
      5. Mishandling flexible endoscopes after disinfection can lead to patient infections.
      6. Confusing dose rate with flow rate can lead to infusion pump medication errors.
      7. Improper customization of physiologic monitor alarm settings may result in missed alarms.
      8. Injury risk from overhead patient lift systems.
      9. Cleaning fluid seeping into electrical components can lead to equipment damage and fires.
      10. Flawed battery charging systems and practices can affect device operation.