Technology is providing healthcare with new and innovative ways of treating patients, but are healthcare providers doing enough to protect patient data?
How VR is transforming healthcare
Virtual reality isn't just a source of entertainment; it can be used by the healthcare sector to provide medical education, drug development and pain alleviation.
Take VR SnowWorld. Created by cognitive psychologist Hunter Hoffman, it helps burn victims by giving them a much-needed distraction from physical pain, with the amount of time spent thinking about pain dropping by more than half.
One of the first burn victims to try the VR therapy was Sam Brown, a Lieutenant who suffered burns whilst on tour in Afghanistan. While morphine and other hallucinogenic drugs failed to relieve his suffering, the VR therapy did make a difference.
This technology is also being used to help show what certain illnesses are like. In order to tackle general misconceptions that a migraine is like a headache, Excedrin have created a VR experience to show what having a migraine is actually like.
The migraine and headache relief company worked with regular migraine sufferers to replicate what a sufferer would see and feel. By enabling people to experience a migraine without the accompanying pain, VR helps to raise awareness of the severity of the illness.
Research finds troubling issues with hospital cybersecurity
A survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that more than a third (36%) of respondents admitted to not encrypting health records in transit. Nearly six in 10 (58.7%) encrypted data at rest.
In its report, HIMSS wrote: "This means that the providers that are not encrypting data are sending protected health information and other data in the clear, leaving such data susceptible to being breached by eavesdropping, packing sniffing or other means.
"Similarly, only 61.3% of acute providers are encrypting data at rest, and 48.4% of non-acute providers are encrypting data at rest.
"This, as well, leaves the door wide open to potential tampering and corruption of the data, in addition to a large potential for a breach."
When it came to cybersecurity products, antivirus or anti-malware and firewalls were the only security products found in more than 80% of all respondent locations. However, it was only these two technologies and audit logs that were being used by more than half of non-acute providers.
However, the report noted that there was evidence to suggest improvements in providers' and hospital cybersecurity.
Vendors and developers looking at use of blockchain in healthcare
The use of blockchain technology in numerous industries has been discussed a lot recently, but one new sector exploring its use is that of healthcare.
Blockchain in healthcare is moving past the theoretical stages, with major companies and venture capitalists now actively looking into it.
A blockchain-in-healthcare lab has been launched by healthcare IT giant Philips. The company has also joined a new blockchain-in-healthcare network being led by blockchain vendor Gem.
What's more, numerous reports on blockchain in healthcare have been released by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, who has also formed partnerships with several blockchain startups.
Co-author of a recent paper discussing the challenge of blockchain in healthcare, Peter Nichol, explained that one of the obvious uses for blockchain is "the ability to identify when there's been data manipulation and when there's been a disruption in that flow."
With research into how healthcare can use blockchain technology, will it be long before the UK's healthcare sector adopts this technology?
Integrated care records to be rolled out by Torbay and South Devon NHS
Following a successful pilot programme, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust will roll out Intersystem's HealthShare platform across the region, Computer Weekly reports.
The aim of the trust is to link every single patient's health and social care records across the region in the next year.
Through HealthShare, patients will have a single health record that follows them regardless of which service they are seeing as information will be integrated across acute, community, social care and GP services.
The trust is one of several integrated care pioneers that were given nearly £2m in funding by NHS England through the "safer hospitals, safer wards" technology fund.
The trust signed up to the HealthShare platform in 2014, with part of the original pilot seeing the system used by the heart failure team to streamline information sharing and care for vulnerable patients.
A heart failure specialist nurse at the trust, Joanne Passmore, explained that the system alerts staff if any of their heart failure patients are admitted to hospital.
It also allows them to review medications and recovery plans, with this information being shared across the acute and community teams on discharge.
The system's roll-out will happen in a phased approach, with health and wellbeing teams set to be next in line.
NHS Trusts in England are frequent targets of ransomware attacks
A new report by the cybersecurity firm NCC Group has revealed the extent of cyber-attacks against NHS Trusts in England, with ransomware being the main type of attack.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request was sent to 60 Trusts, asking if they had been victims of a ransomware attack in the last 12 months.
While 31 declined to answer, citing patient confidentiality, 28 confirmed to have been attacked. Of all the respondents, just one said it had not been a target. However, it had been a victim of ransomware in the past.
Technical director at NCC Group, Ollie Whitehouse, commented: "The damage that a successful ransomware attack can cause makes these findings not simply an issue for a Trust's IT team, but for its board of directors, too.
"Paying the ransom – which isn't something we would advise – can cost significant amounts of money, yet losing patient data would be a nightmare scenario for an NHS Trust."
Whitehouse noted that in the past flaws enabled a way to retrieve files, however, as capabilities have improved data retrieval is usually no longer an option, making prior preparation absolutely vital.
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