Nandkishor Dhomne, CIO, Manipal Health Enterprises

Nandkishor Dhomne has over 26 years of experience as an IT leader working in the manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure, airports, logistics, software development & apparel export sectors. He has expertise in digital strategy and roadmap, Business Process Automation & Enterprise applications/ERP, Data Centre & Disaster Recovery, Cybersecurity & Compliance, Digital Hospital, IT operations for large enterprises, Project planning and execution, M & A Consolidation/Tech Integration, Business Dashboards, Team management & mentoring, evaluations & selection of technology, budgeting & ROI, etc. At Manipal Hospital, the team led by Dhomne is currently executing a digital hospital strategy & technology integration.

 

Introduction: The rise of Digital Health infrastructure 

Pandemics throughout human history have paved the way for innovations and advancements in healthcare facilities. For instance, while the Bubonic Plague gave birth to hospitals, the smallpox epidemic of 1796 led to the discovery of the concept of preventive medicine.

Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed healthcare institutions in India to adapt to a new world of digital health ― an infrastructure wherein patients can consult with doctors while being miles away physically, and digital cloud storage which can be accessed at the click of a button. 

Health Information Technology

Health Information Technology (HIT) systems are crucial to health infrastructure. It is usually managed across computerized systems which pave the way for insecure exchange of data and information across various stakeholders like healthcare providers, patients, government, pharma companies, and insurers. 

Health IT has paved the way for major advancements in the way healthcare works today ― from generation of accurate information of a patient’s health and better coordination to secure sharing of data and information which will help in faster and accurate diagnosis, and reduction in medical errors, while providing quality healthcare at lower costs. 

Threats to the Digital Health Infrastructure

While there are major benefits of healthcare going digital, there are also many risks to the digital healthcare infrastructure. These relate to intellectual property (IP) and proprietary data, personal information, protected health information, and governmental and industry information systems. 

With the growing reliance on computer systems, connected devices, rise of cloud computing, boom in the use of smart devices, and internet of things, cyber-attacks have become increasingly common and sophisticated. Add to this the increasing reliance on technology, both now and going forward, it becomes imperative to move forward from anti-virus and firewalls to secure organizations from data breaches launched by the so-called cyber-criminals. 

From simple phishing attacks to sophisticated malware, cyber-criminals can get around your cyber-security by changing what they target, and methods of targeting, as well as their expanding objectives.

Take the past year, for instance. While COVID-19 ravaged the nation, there was no respite from cyber-crimes. In fact, 2020 saw an 11.8 percent increase in cyber-attacks from 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In the past year, healthcare institutions have also fallen victims to cyber-crimes. 

According to research, pharma and healthcare institutions have reported a 45 percent increase in cyber-attacks. The average number of global weekly cyber-attacks has increased from 430 in October 2020 to 626 in November 2020. 

Apart from disrupting health systems and the ability to deliver quality care, cyber-attacks also dent the economy and the reputation of organizations. With India pushing towards a comprehensive digital health infrastructure with its National Digital Health Mission, it is the need of the hour for, both public and private health institutions, to invest in Cyber Security!

Cyber Threats

Understanding various types of cyberattacks is crucial in setting up systems to prevent them. From the many cyber-attacks that take place globally on healthcare infrastructure, they can be categorized into:

  • E-mail phishing attacks
  • Loss or theft of equipment or data
  • Insider, accidental or intentional data loss
  • Attacks against connected medical devices

Handling Cyber Threats

To mitigate the continuous threats of growing and sophisticated cyber-attacks, cyber-security professionals put in place continuous checks to ensure a secure digital/IT framework:

  • Identify
  • Protect
  • Detect
  • Respond 
  • Recover

Furthermore, they practice the following to mitigate cyber threats:

  • Email protection 
  • Endpoint protection 
  • Access management 
  • Asset management
  • Network management
  • Vulnerability management 
  • Incident response
  • Data protection
  • Loss prevention 
  • Medical device security 
  • Cybersecurity policies

Conclusion

Just like every invention, digital health/health information technology systems have loopholes that can be constantly exploited by cyber-criminals. But the right cyber-security infrastructure can prevent any leaks in proprietary information, and patients’ personal and medical data, while averting major financial and reputational damage incurred by organizations.

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