GAO warns about IoT security, privacy and safety issues

Dive Brief:

  • In a new Internet of Things (IoT) report, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned that IoT presents challenges for information security, privacy, safety and standards, and may create economic issues.

  • Many in healthcare view IoT devices as a way to help communicate and process information between patients and healthcare professionals, and allow doctors to keep tabs on their at-risk patients.

  • GAO released the report because of the growing use of IoT devices. The agency said the report is an introduction to IoT, emerging technologies and the implications of their use.

Dive Insight:

IoT technology is all around us, and healthcare leaders are rightfully looking for ways to integrate the technology into care. GAO warned, however, that IoT brings risks of information security, including a cyberattack that could comprise devices, networks and cloud servers that store the data.

It's not hard to imagine, particularly after the recent ransomware attack that paralyzed some hospitals in the United Kingdom and reportedly made its way to a few pieces of radiology equipment in the U.S. 

GAO said hackers accessed “hundreds of thousands of weakly-secured IoT devices” in 2016. A cyberattack is also a safety concern, considering that hackers could gain access to remote controls and wreak havoc. The government agency also highlighted privacy concerns, such as a person’s information being sold to companies that target consumers with advertising or to determine insurance rates.

GAO has already spoken out about technology concerns this year. The watchdog agency released a report about EHRs in March that said patients aren’t accessing or using electronic health information. The group suggested HHS look for ways to increase patient usage of EHRs. It also released a report earlier this year asking the federal government to improve security for EHRs and state-based health insurance marketplaces.

Cybersecurity in healthcare is becoming increasingly important as more healthcare organizations adopt IoT technology. In fact, a recent report found that 60% of healthcare organizations worldwide expect to adopt IoT technology by 2019. That makes the healthcare industry the “third most advanced in its implementation of IoT,” according to the report.

That same report said that 80% of organizations that implemented IoT said the technology increased innovation and another 73% pointed to cost savings.

IoT leading to innovation and cost savings is exactly what healthcare leaders want, but they also must be aware of the potential downsides of the technology, which GAO highlighted in its new report.

Filed Under: Health IT
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