What’s the difference between Connected Health and MedTech?

This article is part one of our blog series on Connected Health and MedTech.

We are living in the digital age where technology is increasingly making inroads into every single aspect of life, especially in healthcare. Since the development in the healthcare field, you may have frequently heard the terms ‘connected health’ or ‘medical technology’.

However, do you know and understand the differences between them and their security considerations?

What is Connected Health?

The Connected Health Initiative (CHI) defines connected health technologies as harnessing the power of mobile connectivity to revolutionize the healthcare system. They are a set of new-age solutions to address accessibility problems within healthcare delivery across the world.

A study in the QJM medical journal defines ‘connected health’ as an all-encompassing term describing the health management devices that operate wirelessly, digitally, electronically or on mobile, to fit to the patient’s needs.

Connected health is about connecting devices, data, and people in the healthcare ecosystem, where patients are the center of the entire process. Some examples of connected health solutions for both patients and healthcare providers include:

  • Digital Health
  • eHealth
  • mHealth
  • Telehealth and Telemedicine
  • Telecare
  • Remote Care
  • Assisted Living

What is MedTech?

Medical Technology, or MedTech, is a part of the connected health world. It refers to the use of medical devices to support prevention, diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and patient care. MedTech broadly includes medical devices, In Vitro Diagnostics (IVDs) and digital health solutions.

With improving the quality of healthcare in mind, MedTech aims to generate quicker turnaround times for lab results and through increased accuracy, it could lower the need for intrusive investigations. By using MedTech solutions, Health Delivery Organizations (HDOs) can provide valuable insight and bring better healthcare services to their patients.

So, in short, the medical devices that support diagnostics and treatment make up MedTech, which operates and connects to the HDO network, forming a connected health ecosystem.

What are the key threats to both connected health and MedTech?

The more the healthcare industry relies on technologies and internet connectivity, the more vulnerable to cyberattacks it becomes. In fact, the healthcare industry has become the top target of cybercriminals due to the high value of Protected Health Information (PHI) compared to Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on the black market.

There are several cyber threats in the healthcare sector. These include:

  • Data breach is the most common cybersecurity threat in healthcare. A data breach happens when hackers take advantage of the cybersecurity gap to sneak into the system and steal patients’ confidential data.
  • Ransomware is the practice of malware distribution into a network that paralyzes the whole healthcare system. It then encrypts the important data and makes it inaccessible to the HDO until a ransom is paid.
  • Phishing is disguised as emails with malicious links. Once the link is opened, cybercriminals can access the reader’s credentials and valuable data. Business Email Compromise (BEC), a type of phishing email, is often used as the starting point for ransomware attacks causing big issues for the healthcare sector.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) makes the hospital’s network inoperable. This prevents healthcare professionals from accessing information on patient status, prescriptions, records, and any other data used in diagnostics or treatment.

Each of these cyberattacks can cause significant issues for the function of the healthcare industry. In a survey we conducted, as many as 80% of the participants had suffered at least one cyberattack in the last 5 years.

What are the key risks for Health Delivery Organizations?

The nature of the healthcare industry makes the damage of being attacked by cybercriminals much more severe, even beyond monetary loss and privacy violations.

The people most affected are the patients. The disruption of healthcare services through the loss or tampering with medical records held in the HDO’s database affects ongoing treatment and could result in direct harm to a patient’s health.

The HDOs also suffer heavy losses, both financially and to their reputation. They may result in facing legal consequences or penalties for failing to protect patient data and public skepticism regarding their approach to security.

What can be done to raise the security standard in connected health?

Medical Device Manufacturers (MDMs) are now under pressure to ensure that the future medical devices have cybersecurity at the forefront of consideration while still performing their medical functions effectively.

To achieve this, the EU parliament introduced the Medical Device Regulation (MDR) and In Vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR), replacing the current directives. The implementation of MDR and IVDR is extensive but will help in ensuring the manufacturing of cyber-secure medical devices. For the US, the FDA has also raised the bar and is planning to hire new staff, increase the training budget for cybersecurity and develop new infrastructure to address the emerging cybersecurity challenges, all within the upcoming year.

Stay alert, MDMs!

Critical security measures need to be implemented for all medical devices to meet the requirements of MDR and IVDR.

At Irdeto, we help early-stage companies, SMEs and established medical device manufacturers ensure they are properly mitigating cyber risks for their total product lifecycle. If you would like to learn more, feel free to reach out and start the conversation!

This article is part one of our blog series on connected health and MedTech, be sure to check back here for part two!