Rise of IoMT Usage Requires Security Analysis

Internet of medical things connectivity within emergent care, clinics, hospitals, and assisted living communities.

What Is the Internet of Medical Things?

The Internet of Medical Things, IoMT, is one of the most watched healthcare industry trends of our time. Industry predictions anticipate the global IoMT market to grow from nearly $31 billion in 2021 to more than $187 billion in 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.

That six-fold growth projection is not only interesting from an investment perspective but also a clinical and operational one. After all, if the IoMT grows as predicted, it means an increased adoption of more tech-enabled devices is on the horizon since the IoMT refers to all the sensors, software, and particular infrastructure needed in a healthcare setting, including:

  • Medical and clinical grade devices worn on a patient’s body, such as fitness or activity trackers.
  • Devices used in the home to indicate an emergency, such as personal emergency response systems (PERS) and remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems.
  • Technology used to conduct telehealth visits.
  • Devices utilized to promote patient mobility, foster emergency response intelligence for first responders, and assist with healthcare products and services logistics.
  • Technology used in a facility during in-clinic or telehealth patient visits.
  • Devices used to manage personnel, inventory and patient capacity.

Managing HIPAA Regulations with IoMT Devices

Healthcare organizations and facilities are faced with the responsibility of securely storing and transmitting patients’ electronic medical records, while also maintaining accessibility to providers. A proper security architecture would allow for both scenarios to work with reliability and ease, while being responsive to any potential intrusions and supportive of IoMT devices.

According to the HIPAA Journal, more than 80% of IoMT devices are used on a monthly basis — or more frequently — which means IT professionals have small windows of time to manage security issues on the devices. Yet, managing those security issues is of the utmost importance to staying in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

This is where an outside consultant could offer support to and supplement the efforts of internal teams trying to keep pace with the network security needs of an organization or facility.

Security Challenges for IoMT Devices

By their very nature, as mobile devices, IoMT devices are more difficult to secure than other systems used to transmit and store electronic protected health information (ePHI). Organizations attempting to secure their IoMT ecosystem often run into similar challenges, including:

  • Improper access control, which can allow unauthorized users to gain control of an IoMT device.
  • Managing a large attack surface across all IoMT devices to prevent malicious intrusions.
  • Data that is not fully encrypted when being stored or transmitted across the network.
  • Software that is out of date, which creates potentially costly vulnerabilities.
  • A network environment that wasn’t originally designed for use in a healthcare setting.
  • Diversity among vendor devices and platforms, which can make it difficult to establish uniform security guidelines.
  • A lack of physical security for any given IoMT device exposes it to the dangers of being destroyed or physically compromised.

The downside to the rapid growth of IoMT utilization is its vulnerabilities to healthcare data security. Hospitals, health systems and companies dealing with patient records are most vulnerable to data breaches.

According to statistics cited by Becker’s Hospital Review, an estimated 19 million patient records were compromised in healthcare data breaches in the first half of 2022 alone. As critical information is transmitted over remote networks, a luxury of our tech-enhanced times, hackers and those with malicious intent are finding ways to access what has become precious and sensitive data.

Ransomware is a real threat with the rise of IoMT utilization, as are side-channel attacks, sensor tracking and server infiltrations, partly because mobile devices serve as yet another potential entry point for hackers.

Access is one of the most important variables related to data. You must adequately secure it from bad actors while allowing it to move quickly among providers.

As regulations are developed at the industry and federal level to keep pace with technological advances, organizations in vulnerable spaces — specifically healthcare — need to do their best to avoid becoming the next casualty. That means working with experts in the field who have accrued valuable experience in designing, implementing, remediating, and managing secure yet highly reliable and fast, information networks.

And this is true for large hospital systems, outpatient medical facilities, and individual patient clinics. The threat of a data breach is great because the market value for healthcare data is tremendous.

Securing Privacy In The IoMT Era

In the era of electronic patient records, which are being stored and transmitted over digital networks, security has to be given priority to ensure patient privacy. And, for providers and patients to maximize the benefits of telemedicine solutions, privacy and security can never be compromised. Any organization can improve security and privacy of (ePHI) by prioritizing a few preventative measures, including: 

  • Maintaining a complete inventory of all IoMT devices and regularly auditing them to ensure each is equipped with the most recent security patches.
  • Equipping every IoMT device with strong passwords and mandating that manufacturer default passwords be disregarded across the network.
  • Instituting network segmentation limits to reduce the risk that unauthorized users will have the ability to hack into sensitive data.

Don’t go it alone

To avoid or minimize the exposure to a network attack, healthcare organizations should consider the upside to working with experienced professionals in the IT security field who implement thoughtful protective measures, such as:

  • Introducing multi-factor authentication measures across all IoMT devices to add an additional layer of protection.
  • Facilitating robust encryption for data transmitted across all IoMT devices.
  • Monitoring network traffic for any abnormalities, which may indicate a malicious intrusion.
  • Installing an intrusion detection system across the network that is triggered by abnormal activity.

No organization, healthcare facility, or medical practice should be left vulnerable, particularly with the meteoric rise of IoMT usage. And as experts in the field acting as an extension of a healthcare organization’s team, we at Vandis are ready to introduce and manage solutions designed to improve security across your network.

Vandis, an IT security consultancy, specializes in security, cloud, networking, mobility, and infrastructure practices focused on helping organizations build secure and stable systems, whether on-prem or in the cloud. From planning to design to implementation to management, our industry expertise and well-honed practices strengthen any organization's security. Learn more about our solutions for Healthcare here or contact us at info.vandis.com.