With its extraordinary demands on healthcare systems around the globe, the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a new push for the adoption of digital health technologies. Digital health represents an opportunity for long-term transformation for health systems not only because technology facilitates access to patients but also because of its potential utility in research and the search for new treatments. However, for digital health to be successful, one key element must be in place: cybersecurity to protect patient data.
Digital health relies on the use of technological platforms that store and transmit data; this data can include electronic medical records, which centralise patients’ health information and make it accessible to any healthcare practitioner. It can also include data from medical devices themselves; some devices are designed to be capable of communicating via the Internet to transfer information about patients. Examples include pacemakers, home monitoring systems and blood glucose monitors, which provide important benefits such as providing information about the patient’s health status, personalised monitoring and the correction and administration of treatments.
The pandemic and imposition of quarantines triggered an expansion of telemedicine along with greater general use of digital technology in all areas. However, if cybersecurity and data protection are not prioritised in the technological infrastructures of the health sector and medical device manufacturers, the potential for the exposure of confidential medical data puts patient privacy at severe risk. Personal information, medical history and test and treatment results are just some of the critical information at stake.
Medtronic, a well-known producer of medical devices, is currently involved in a legal dispute over claims that it shared a vast amount of patient data on diabetes with tech giant Google. This significant revelation has shocked the healthcare sector. The complaint, which was brought by privacy advocates and worried patients, accused Medtronic of violating patient confidentiality and presented serious issues with data privacy in the medical industry.
In light of this incident, it is critical to strengthen the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern data protection by enacting, clarifying and enforcing national or international regulations that dictate how businesses should conduct themselves.
Patients must believe that their information is secure in order to foster trust in digital health. For that reason, medical institutions and companies must consider cybersecurity and data protection to be crucial components of their daily operations.