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To Improve Health Data Security, Get Your Staff On Board

Posted on February 2, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

As most readers know, last year was a pretty lousy one for healthcare data security. For one thing, there was the spectacular attack on health insurer Anthem Inc., which exposed personal information on nearly 80 million people. But that was just the headline event. During 2015, the HHS Office for Civil Rights logged more than 100 breaches affecting 500 or more individuals, including four of the five largest breaches in its database.

But will this year be better? Sadly, as things currently stand, I think the best guess is “no.” When you combine the increased awareness among hackers of health data’s value with the modest amounts many healthcare organizations spend on security, it seems like the problem will actually get worse.

Of course, HIT leaders aren’t just sitting on their hands. According to a HIMSS estimate, hospitals and medical practices will spend about $1 billion on cybersecurity this year. And recent HIMSS survey of healthcare executives found that information security had become a top business priority for 90% of respondents.

But it will take more than a round of new technical investments to truly shore up healthcare security. I’d argue that until the culture around healthcare security changes — and executives outside of the IT department take these threats seriously — it’ll be tough for the industry to make any real security progress.

In my opinion, the changes should include following:

  • Boost security education:  While your staff may have had the best HIPAA training possible, that doesn’t mean they’re prepared for growing threat cyber-strikes pose. They need to know that these days, the data they’re protecting might as well be money itself, and they the bankers who must keep an eye on the vault. Health leaders must make them understand the threat on a visceral level.
  • Make it easy to report security threats: While readers of this publication may be highly IT-savvy, most workers aren’t. If you haven’t done so already, create a hotline to report security concerns (anonymously if callers wish), staffed by someone who will listen patiently to non-techies struggling to explain their misgivings. If you wait for people who are threatened by Windows to call the scary IT department, you’ll miss many legit security questions, especially if the staffer isn’t confident that anything is wrong.
  • Reward non-IT staffers for showing security awareness: Not only should organizations encourage staffers to report possible security issues — even if it’s a matter of something “just not feeling right” — they should acknowledge it when staffers make a good catch, perhaps with a gift card or maybe just a certificate. It’s pretty straightforward: reward behavior and you’ll get more of it.
  • Use security reports to refine staff training: Certainly, the HIT department may benefit from alerts passed on by the rest of the staff. But the feedback this process produces can be put to broader use.  Once a quarter or so, if not more often, analyze the security issues staffers are bringing to light. Then, have brown bag lunches or other types of training meetings in which you educate staffers on issues that have turned up regularly in their reports. This benefits everyone involved.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that security awareness among non-techies is sufficient to prevent data breaches. But I do believe that healthcare organizations could prevent many a breach by taking advantage of their staff’s instincts and observational skills.

Wearable Health Trackers Could Pose Security Risks

Posted on February 1, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Last October, security researchers made waves when they unveiled what they described as a 10-second hack of a Fitbeat wearable health tracker. At the Hack.Lu 2015 conference, Fortinet security researcher Axelle Apvrille laid out a method for hacking the wearable through its Bluetooth radio. Apparently, Aprville was able to infect the Fitbit Flex from as much as 15 feet away, manipulate data on the tracker, and use the Flex to distribute his code to a computer.

Fitbit, for its part, denied that its devices can serve as vehicles for infecting users with malware. And Aprville himself admitted publicly that his demonstration was more theoretical than practical. In a tweet following the conference, he noted that he had not demonstrated a way to execute malicious code on the victim’s host.

But the incident does bring attention to a very serious issue. While consumers are picking up health trackers at a breathless pace, relatively little attention has been paid to whether the data on these devices is secure. Perhaps even more importantly, too few experts are seeking ways to prevent these devices can be turned into a jumping-off point for malware. After all, like any other lightly-guarded Internet of Things device, a wearable tracker could ultimately allow an attacker to access enterprise healthcare networks, and possibly even sensitive PHI or financial data.

It’s not as though we aren’t aware that connected healthcare devices are rich hunting grounds. For example, security groups are beginning to focus on securing networked medical devices such as blood gas analyzers and wireless infusion pumps, as it’s becoming clear that they might be accessible to data thieves or other malicious intruders. But perhaps because wearable trackers are effectively “healthcare lite,” used almost exclusively by consumers, the threat they could pose to healthcare organizations over time hasn’t generated a lot of heat.

But health tracker security strategies deserve a closer look. Here’s some sample suggestions on how to secure health and fitness devices from Milan Patel, IoT Security Program Director at IBM:

  • Device design: Health tracker manufacturers should establish a secure hardware and software development process, including source code analysis to pinpoint code vulnerabilities and security testing to find runtime vulnerabilities. Use trusted manufacturers who secure components, and a trusted supply chain. Also, deliver secure firmware/software updates and audit them.
  • Device deployment:  Be sure to use strong encryption to protect privacy and integrity of data on the device, during transmission from device to the cloud and on the cloud. To further control device data, give consumers the ability to set up user and usage privileges for their data, and an option to anonymize the data.Secure all communication channels to protect against data change, corruption or observation.
  • Manage security:  Include trackers in the set of technology being monitored, and set alerts for intrusion. Audit logging is desirable for the devices, as well as the network connections and the cloud. The tracker should ideally be engineered to include a fail-safe operation — dropping the system down to incapability, safely — to protect against attacks.

This may sound like a great deal of effort to expend on these relatively unsophisticated devices. And at present, it just may be overkill. But it’s worth preparing for a world in which health trackers are increasingly capable and connected, and increasingly attractive to the attackers who want your data.

NIST Goes After Infusion Pump Security Vulnerabilities

Posted on January 28, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

As useful as networked medical devices are, it’s become increasingly apparent that they pose major security risks.  Not only could intruders manipulate networked devices in ways that could harm patients, they could use them as a gateway to sensitive patient health information and financial data.

To make a start at taming this issue, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has kicked off a project focused on boosting the security of wireless infusion pumps (Side Note: I wonder if this is in response to Blackberry’s live hack of an infusion pump). In an effort to be sure researchers understand the hospital environment and how the pumps are deployed, NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) plans to work with vendors in this space. The NCCoE will also collaborate on the effort with the Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota.

NCCoE researchers will examine the full lifecycle of wireless infusion pumps in hospitals, including purchase, onboarding of the asset, training for use, configuration, use, maintenance, decontamination and decommissioning of the pumps. This makes a great deal of sense. After all, points of network connection are becoming so decentralized that every touchpoint is suspect.

The team will also look at what types of infrastructure interconnect with the pumps, including the pump server, alarm manager, electronic medication administration record system, point of care medication, pharmacy system, CPOE system, drug library, wireless networks and even the hospital’s biomedical engineering department. (It’s sobering to consider the length of this list, but necessary. After all, more or less any of them could conceivably be vulnerable if a pump is compromised.)

Wisely, the researchers also plan to look at the way a wide range of people engage with the pumps, including patients, healthcare professionals, pharmacists, pump vendor engineers, biomedical engineers, IT network risk managers, IT security engineers, IT network engineers, central supply workers and patient visitors — as well as hackers. This data should provide useful workflow information that can be used even beyond cybersecurity fixes.

While the NCCoE and University of Minnesota teams may expand the list of security challenges as they go forward, they’re starting with looking at access codes, wireless access point/wireless network configuration, alarms, asset management and monitoring, authentication and credentialing, maintenance and updates, pump variability, use and emergency use.

Over time, NIST and the U of M will work with vendors to create a lab environment where collaborators can identify, evaluate and test security tools and controls for the pumps. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to create a multi-part practice guide which will help providers evaluate how secure their own wireless infusion pumps are. The guide should be available late this year.

In the mean time, if you want to take a broader look at how secure your facility’s networked medical devices are, you might want to take a look at the FDA’s guidance on the subject, “Cybersecurity for Networked Medical Devices Containing Off-the-Shelf Software.” The guidance doc, which was issued last summer, is aimed at device vendors, but the agency also offers a companion document offering information on the topic for healthcare organizations.

If this topic interests you, you may also want to watch this video interview talking about medical device security with Tony Giandomenico, a security expert at Fortinet.

Healthcare Data Breach Deja Vu…More Like Groundhog Day

Posted on January 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


I was intrigued by Ryan Witt’s comment about it being Deja Vu when it came to more healthcare data breaches. In many ways he’s right. Although, I’d almost compare it more to the movie Groundhog Day than deja vu. If it feels like we’ve been through this before it’s because we have been through it before. The iHealthBeat article he links to outlines a wide variety of healthcare breaches and the pace at which breaches are occurring is accelerating.

I think we know the standard script for when a breach occurs:

  1. Company discovers a breach has occurred (or often someone else discovers it and lets them know)
  2. Company announces that a “very highly sophisticated” breach occurred to their system. (Note: It’s never admitted that they did a poor job protecting their systems. It was always a sophisticated attack)
  3. Details of the breach are outlined along with a notice that all of their other systems are secure (How they know this 2nd part is another question)
  4. They announce that there was no evidence that the data was used inappropriately (As if they really know what happens with the data after it’s breached)
  5. All parties that were impacted by the breach will be notified (Keeping the US postal service in business)
  6. Credit monitoring is offered to all individuals affected by the breach (Makes you want to be a credit monitoring company doesn’t it?)
  7. Everything possible is being done to ensure that a breach like this never happens again (They might need to look up the term “everything” in Webster’s dictionary)

It’s a pretty simple 7 step process, no? Have we seen this before? Absolutely! Will we see it again? Far too much.

Of course, the above just covers the public facing component of a breach. The experience is much more brutal if you’re an organization that experiences a breach of your data. What do they say? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s never more appropriate than in healthcare security and privacy. Unfortunately, far too many are living in an “ignorance is bliss” state right now. What they don’t tell you is that ignorance is not bliss if you get caught in your ignorance.

Security Concerns Threaten Mobile Health App Deployment

Posted on January 26, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Healthcare organizations won’t get much out of deploying mobile apps if consumers won’t use them. And if consumers are afraid that their personal data will be stolen, they’ve got a reason not to use your apps. So the fact that both consumers and HIT execs are having what I’d deem a crisis of confidence over mHealth app security isn’t a good sign for the current crop of mobile health initiatives.

According to a new study by security vendor Arxan, which polled 815 consumers and 268 IT decision-makers, more than half of consumer respondents who use mobile health apps expect their health apps to be hacked in the next six months.

These concerns could have serious implications for healthcare organizations, as 76% of health app users surveyed said they would change providers if they became aware that the provider’s apps weren’t secure. And perhaps even more significantly, 80% of consumer health app users told Arxan that they’d switch to other providers if they found out that the apps that alternate provider offered were better secured. In other words, consumer perceptions of a provider’s health app security aren’t just abstract fears — they’re actually starting to impact patients’ health decision making.

Perhaps you’re telling yourself that your own apps aren’t terribly exposed. But don’t be so sure. When Arxan tested a batch of 71 popular mobile health apps for security vulnerabilities, 86% were shown to have a minimum of two OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks. The researchers found that vulnerable apps could be tampered with and reverse-engineered, as well as compromised to provide sensitive health information. Easily-done hacks could also force critical health apps to malfunction, Arxan researchers concluded.

The following data also concerned me. Of the apps tested, 19 had been approved by the FDA and 15 by the UK National Health Service. And at least where the FDA is concerned, my assumption would be that FDA-tested apps were more secure than non-approved ones. But Arxan’s research team found that both FDA and National Health Service-blessed apps were among the most vulnerable of all the apps studied.

In truth, I’m not incredibly surprised that health IT leaders have some work to do in securing mobile health apps. After all, mobile health app security is evolving, as the form and function of mHealth apps evolve. In particular, as I’ve noted elsewhere, mobile health apps are becoming more tightly integrated with enterprise infrastructure, which takes the need for thoughtful security precautions to a new level.

But guidelines for mobile health security are emerging. For example, in the summer of last year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology released a draft of its mobile health cybersecurity guidance, “Securing Electronic Records on Mobile Devices” — complete with detailed architecture. Also, I’d wager that more mHealth standards should emerge this year too.

In the mean time, it’s worth remembering that patients are paying close attention to health apps security, and that they’re unlikely to give your organization a pass if they’re hacked. While security has always been a high-stakes issue, the stakes have gotten even higher.

Biometric Use Set To Grow In Healthcare

Posted on January 15, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

I don’t know about you, but until recently I thought of biometrics as almost a toy technology, something you’d imagine a fictional spy like James Bond circumvent (through pure manliness) when entering the archenemy’s hideout. Or perhaps retinal or fingerprint scans would protect Batman’s lair.

But today, in 2016, biometric apps are far from fodder for mythic spies. The price of fingerprint scan-based technology has fallen to nearly zero, with vendors like Apple offering fingerprint-based security options as a standard part of its iOS iPhone operating system. Another free biometric security option comes courtesy of Intel’s True Key app, which allows you to access encrypted app data by scanning and recognizing your facial features. And these are just trivial examples. Biometrics technologies, in short, have become powerful, usable and relatively affordable — elevating them well above other healthcare technologies for some security problems.

If none of this suggests to you that the healthcare industry needs to adopt biometrics, you may have a beef with Raymond Aller, MD, director of informatics at the University of Southern California. In an interview with Healthcare IT News, Dr. Aller argues that our current system of text-based patient identification is actually dangerous, and puts patients at risk of improper treatments and even death. He sees biometric technologies as a badly needed, precise means of patient identification.

What’s more, biometrics can be linked up with patients’ EMR data, making sure the right history is attached to the right person. One health system, Novant Health, uses technology registering a patient’s fingerprints, veins and face at enrollment. Another vendor is developing software that will notify the patient’s health insurer every time that patient arrives and leaves, steps which are intended to be sure providers can’t submit fradulent bills for care not delivered.

As intriguing as these possibilities are, there are certainly some issues holding back the use of biometric approaches in healthcare. And many are exposed, such as Apple’s Touch ID, which is vulnerable to spoofing. Not only that, storing and managing biometric templates securely is more challenging than it seems, researchers note. What’s more, hackers are beginning to target consumer-focused fingerprint sensors, and are likely to seek access to other forms of biometric data.

Fortunately, biometric security solutions like template protection and biocryptography are becoming more mature. As biometric technology grows more sophisticated, patients will be able to use bio-data to safely access their medical records and also pay their bills. For example, MasterCard is exploring biometric authentication for online payments, using biometric data as a password replacement. MasterCard Identity Check allows users to authenticate transactions via video selfie or via fingerprint scanning.

As readers might guess from skimming the surface of biometric security, it comes with its own unique security challenges. It could be years before biometric authentication is used widely in healthcare organizations. But biometric technology use is picking up speed, and this year may see some interesting developments. Stay tuned.

6 Questions To Consider When Providing Virtual Visits Using Video Technology

Posted on January 13, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Dr. Sherry Benton, Creator and Chief Science Officer at TAO Connect.
Sherry Benton
Kaiser Permanente Venture, the corporate venture capital arm of Kaiser Permanente, announced in December 2015 that it would strategically invest $10 million Vidyo, Inc., a leader in high-quality visual communications, to increase patient convenience and the improve the overall quality of care. This endorsement of telemedicine technology by one of the nation’s largest health networks is a strong indication that telemedicine has begun to emerge as a go-to strategy for hospitals and health systems.

In addition, a breadth of clinical research consistently shows that virtual visits either by phone or videoconferencing are just as effective as face-to-face encounters. This is particularly true for synchronous “real-time” communications using technology. Such communications not only increase patient engagement, but they also increase accountability, resulting in more positive outcomes.

Kaiser Permanent’s venture into telemedicine is one of many examples we’ll likely see over the next few years as patient engagement continues to take priority. According to research firm Parks Associates, the use of video conferencing to facilitate an encounter between a provider and patient is projected to reach 130 million visits in 2018.

However, as providers embrace telemedicine technology, they must also keep HIPAA privacy and security at the forefront. Kaiser Permanente, for example, has stated its telemedicine solution offers HIPAA-compliant encryption—a necessity for any provider offering virtual visits. Far too often, providers resort to Skype, FaceTime, or a host of other video service providers without thinking about the potential for breaches of PHI.

Ask your potential video service provider whether it meets federal government standards for HIPAA compliance as a covered entity. The TeleMental Health Institute provides additional guidance on selecting a specific video service provider.

Also consider these six important privacy-and security- questions as you explore video telemedicine options:

  1. Will your video service provider sign a business associate agreement as required by the HIPAA Omnibus Act?
  2. Do you and your patient both have a secure/encrypted Internet connection to prevent interception?
  3. Can your video service provider encrypt data” in motion” and “at rest” as per HIPAA requirements? Data “at rest” refers to data stored on the video service provider’s server and can potentially include non-video elements (e.g., exercises, assessments, and logs) as well. Data must be secure and encrypted for the entirety of the time that it’s retained as dictated by state and federal regulations. Data “in motion” refers to data moving from the patient to the server or from the patient to the provider via the server. This requires security and encryption as information flows through routers, load balancers, firewalls, and Ethernet networks. Ask your video service provider how it incorporates HIPAA-compliant security protocols during every step in the process and for its various delivery platforms and applications, including mobile, web-based, and desktop.
  4. How will you define your legal health record? Will it include the actual video recording itself? If so, how will you handle patient requests for copies of this information? Some specialties, such as mental health, rarely store video unless it’s used for supervision/educational purposes.
  5. Have you implemented role-based access to the virtual visit software at the point of logon?
  6. Have you provided sufficient patient education? For example, patients should be in a private place during the actual virtual visit so no one else can observe the conversation. When patients use a mobile device to participate in a virtual visit, we advise passwords requiring re-entry after a brief period of inactivity. Patient education goes a long way toward risk mitigation in telemedicine.

Looking ahead
Many of the HIPAA challenges related to telemedicine are the same ones we face in a non-virtual world. However, telemedicine certainly requires a heightened awareness of the potential for hacking and virtual interceptions. Give careful consideration of privacy and security at all points in the delivery care process. Take your time in searching for the right video service provider and ensure they are willing to meet all HIPAA requirements in writing…and in practice.

About Sherry Benton, PhD
Dr. Benton is the creator of TAO Connect and director of the University of Florida Counseling Center. She is also a fellow in the American Psychological Association and the President Emeritus of the Academy of Counseling Psychology. Dr. Benton has been a psychologist and mental health care administrator for 22 years.

Mobile Health Security Issues To Ponder In 2016

Posted on January 11, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

In some ways, mobile health security safeguards haven’t changed much for quite some time. Making sure that tablets and phones are protected against becoming easy network intrusion points is a given. Also seeing to it that such devices use strong passwords and encrypted data exchange whenever possible is a must.

But increasingly, as mobile apps become more tightly knit with enterprise infrastructure, there’s more security issues to consider. After all, we’re increasingly talking about mission-critical apps which rely on ongoing access to sensitive enterprise networks. Now more than ever, enterprises must come up with strategies which control how data flows into the enterprise network. In other words, we’re not just talking about locking down the end points, but also seeing to it that powerful edge devices are treated like the vulnerable hackable gateways they are.

To date, however, there’s still not a lot of well-accepted guidance out there spelling out what steps health organizations should take to ramp up their mobile security. For example, NIST has issued its “Securing Electronic Health Records On Mobile Devices” guideline, but it’s only a few months old and remains in draft form to date.

The truth is, the healthcare industry isn’t as aware of, or prepared for, the need for mobile healthcare data security as it should be. While healthcare organizations are gradually deploying, testing and rolling out new mobile platforms, securing them isn’t being given enough attention. What’s more, clinicians aren’t being given enough training to protect their mobile devices from hacks, which leaves some extremely valuable data open to the world.

Nonetheless, there are a few core approaches which can be torqued up help protect mobile health data this year:

  • Encryption: Encrypting data in transit wasn’t invented yesterday, but it’s still worth a check in to make sure your organization is doing so. Gregory Cave notes that data should be encrypted when communicated between the (mobile) application and the server. And he recommends that Web traffic be transmitted through a secure connection using only strong security protocols like Secure Sockets Layer or Transport Layer Security. This also should include encrypting data at rest.
  • Application hardening:  Before your organization rolls out mobile applications, it’s best to see to it that security defects are detected before and addressed before deployment. Application hardening tools — which protect code from hackers — can help protect mobile deployments, an especially important step for software placed on machines and locations your organization doesn’t control. They employ techniques such as obfuscation, which hides code structure and flow within an application, making it hard for intruders to reverse engineer or tamper with the source code.
  • Training staff: Regardless of how sophisticated your security systems are, they’re not going to do much good if your staff leaves the proverbial barn door open. As one security expert points out,  healthcare organizations need to make staffers responsible for understanding what activities lead to breaches, or security hackers will still find a toehold.”It’s like installing the most sophisticated security system in the world for your house, but not teaching the family how to use it,” said Grant Elliott, founder and CEO of risk management and compliance firm Ostendio.

In addition to these efforts, I’d argue that staffers need to really get it as to what happens when security goes awry. Knowing that mistakes will upset some IT guy they’ve never met is one thing; understanding that a breach could cost millions and expose the whole organization to disrepute is a bit more memorable. Don’t just teach the security protocols, teach the costs of violating them. A little drama — such as the little old lady who lost her home due to PHI theft — speaks far more powerfully than facts and figures, don’t you agree?

My First Look at Digital Health at CES

Posted on January 5, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Last night was the official press kick off of CES (Use to be called the Consumer Electronics Show) with a press only event called CES Unveiled. In past years CES Unveiled has been somewhat of a disappointment. Too crowded. Little food. Not very many interesting companies. However, you’d find 1 or 2 companies that really caught your eye and it was also good to see generally what some of the trends of the industry were.

This year felt different. The variety of interesting technologies that were on display was quite exciting. Here’s some mostly healthcare related observations from CES Unveiled.

The number of healthcare wearable copycats is exploding. I’ll be following up on this when I hit the full show floor. I’m going to do my best to make a list of all the companies that are doing health wearables at CES and which ones they’re doing. Needless to say, you’re going to have a lot of choices the next time you want to buy a fitness watch, blood pressure cuff, ekg, connected scale, etc. If I’ve already seen this proliferation at CES Unveiled (which has like 100 companies) I can only imagine how many more there will be on the CES show floor. Plus, there’s at least a few companies talking about invisibles which track the same as wearables but you don’t wear them. More on those later.

The digital health solutions I found are very international. I was impressed by the large number of international players that were developing digital health solutions. I saw solutions coming from China, Netherlands, France, and Italy to name a few. It makes sense that health matters around the world. I just hadn’t seen all these international players in the digital health space at past CES. Some of them haven’t even thought about the US market. However, they’re considering it in the future.

I also came across a smart desk solution from Humanscale that shows promise for employee wellness. I’ll be exploring these solutions more, but they have a sit-stand desk and sensors that track how long you’re sitting or standing and have created software to encourage you to move around more if you’re not moving enough. They even have employer dashboards that help a company evaluate their employee’s wellness from an ergonomic standpoint.

The home is being digitized. A simple example of this is the ICON Home Panel. Imagine having an iPad or Android device on your wall. That’s basically what they’ve done. They’ve started with having it control the temperature of your house the way your current temperature gauge can do, but now that you have a full Android device on the wall, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

My family got an Amazon Echo for Christmas this year and that’s opened my eyes to the future. If you haven’t seen or used the Amazon Echo, it’s basically a voice controlled virtual assistant. Kind of like Siri for your home. Now imagine that technology available in the Android home panel I just talked about. Pretty powerful stuff.

What does a smart panel and Amazon echo have to do with healthcare? It’s all part of the mesh of connections that will be needed to help you monitor and improve your health. Amazon Echo already has what they call the 7 minute workout. You just say “Alexa, start my 7 minute workout” and the Amazon Echo will start walking you through a workout. Think about the Humanscale sensors mentioned above. Could the wall mounted “brain” connect with sensors around your house to let you know that you’ve been in front of the TV for 4 hours? I don’t see it shouting out at you to get off the couch, but there could be ways to use this data to motivate you to be more healthy.

From a security and privacy perspective, I was really impressed by the Qkey. In many cases, CES Unveiled was a progression of existing technologies. However, I’d never seen anything like Qkey. The Qkey is basically a key size device that you can plug into any computer. You can then run a web browser (one they developed) and securely surf the internet. It also has a number of other interesting security features like securing storing your credit card info so that you don’t have to hit any keystrokes. Not only is that convenient, but it makes it so keyloggers can’t capture your credit card info either. I’m planning to stop by their booth and get one that I can use. So, I’ll report back on it more later.

The one challenge with the Qkey for health care is that it runs a custom web browser. I’d be interested to know if it works with the web based EHR out there or not. However, that doesn’t really matter since you can’t run any of the client server applications like Cerner, Epic, or MEDITECH on it. So, it’s not really an option for a large portion of healthcare. From a patient perspective, it could be a great way to access their health info. I love that Qkey is looking at security and privacy from a very different perspective though.

There’s a few of the things I saw that caught my eye. Along with these there was an interesting mix of drones, 3D printers, Virtual Reality (VR), accessories, and new input devices. Some of the new input devices get me excited. Unfortunately, they’re all focused on things like gaming and music right now. However, that tech will no doubt leak over into all of our computer interfaces in the future.

Tiny Budgets Undercut Healthcare’s Cyber Security Efforts

Posted on January 4, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

This has been a lousy year for healthcare data security — so bad a year that IBM has dubbed 2015 “The Year of The Healthcare Security Breach.” In a recent report, Big Blue noted that nearly 100 million records were compromised during the first 10 months of this year.

Part of the reason for the growth in healthcare data breaches seems to be due to the growing value of Protected Health Information. PHI is worth 10x as much as credit card information these days, according to some estimates. It’s hardly surprising that cyber criminals are eager to rob PHI databases.

But another reason for the hacks may be — to my way of looking at things — an indefensible refusal to spend enough on cybersecurity. While the average healthcare organization spends about 3% of their IT budget on cybersecurity, they should really allocate 10% , according to HIMSS cybersecurity expert Lisa Gallagher.

If a healthcare organization has an anemic security budget, they may find it difficult to attract a senior healthcare security pro to join their team. Such professionals are costly to recruit, and command salaries in the $200K to $225K range. And unless you’re a high-profile institution, the competition for such seasoned pros can be fierce. In fact, even high-profile institutions have a challenge recruiting security professionals.

Still, that doesn’t let healthcare organizations off the hook. In fact, the need to tighten healthcare data security is likely to grow more urgent over time, not less. Not only are data thieves after existing PHI stores, and prepared to exploit traditional network vulnerabilities, current trends are giving them new ways to crash the gates.

After all, mobile devices are increasingly being granted access to critical data assets, including PHI. Securing the mix of corporate and personal devices that might access the data, as well as any apps an organization rolls out, is not a job for the inexperienced or the unsophisticated. It takes a well-rounded infosec pro to address not only mobile vulnerabilities, but vulnerabilities in the systems that dish data to these devices.

Not only that, hospitals need to take care to secure their networks as devices such as insulin pumps and heart rate monitors become new gateways data thieves can use to attack their networks. In fact, virtually any node on the emerging Internet of Things can easily serve as a point of compromise.

No one is suggesting that healthcare organizations don’t care about security. But as many wiser heads than mine have pointed out, too many seem to base their security budget on the hope-and-pray model — as in hoping and praying that their luck will hold.

But as a professional observer and a patient, I find such an attitude to be extremely reckless. Personally, I would be quite inclined to drop any provider that allowed my information to be compromised, regardless of excuses. And spending far less on security than is appropriate leaves the barn door wide open.

I don’t know about you, readers, but I say “Not with my horses!”