Complexity Kills: Examining IT Security Challenges in Healthcare Facilities

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One of the promises in the Hippocratic Oath is to do no harm. Healthcare facilities must ensure patient safety at every stage of care. In today’s digitized world, hospitals face unique challenges in terms of IT infrastructure and cybersecurity. In this presentation, we will provide an overview of the complexity and scope of the IT and medical device landscape in modern hospitals and offer unique insights into the key security challenges faced by one of the largest healthcare organizations in Germany.

Our presentation will focus on the security challenges faced by hospitals and medical care centers as operators of public healthcare services. We aim to highlight organizational factors that increase complexity, such as limited budgets, dispersed responsibilities, politics and recruitment difficulties in competition with other industries that have less complex problems but more financial resources.

We want to shed light on the obvious challenges that various technologies and infrastructures pose for hospitals to deliver their services. For instance, software and infrastructure support medical processes such as billing and administrative systems, crucial for managing and supporting medical care but not directly involved in treatments. This software is characteristic of the healthcare sector but comparable to regular corporate IT infrastructures. In contrast, medical devices often function as black boxes within the core infrastructure. These devices typically communicate with various medical information technologies in their dedicated vendor ecosystems and are managed as clusters. These “IT infrastructure islands” are often connected to other core healthcare services, such as hospital information systems, via varying degrees of interoperable and modern medical communication standards. There are also hybrid systems, such as software that is considered a medical device.

Do you have ideas on how to address these challenges? Can these approaches work in both a single hospital and over 100 networked hospitals?

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