TMCnet Feature
September 21, 2021

Healthcare and Technology Are on a Collision Course, And Here's What You Can Do About It

Technology has been a wrecking ball for a number of industries. There was a time when tech was considered its own domain. We no longer have the luxury of thinking of tech in that way. Technology is not a walled-off silo where the geeks and nerds hang out and play ancient editions of D&D, although that also happens. Rather, technology is more like a ubiquitous utility. It is the infrastructure that holds everything else together. The big money in day trading goes to those with the most big tech. All forms of entertainment are driven by tech. Big tech companies have more power than governments.

Right now, we are in a moment where governments are trying to claw back some of that power through regulation. But the user base of big tech companies far outstrips the population of any nation state. It is only natural that this Goliath of a force would eventually collide with healthcare. The future of prosthetics is technology, not woodworking. Your life will more likely be saved by technology rather than a scalpel. It can also be snuffed out in the same way. That is why we all need to be engaged in the conversation. Here is some of what you need to know.

Technology and the Cure for Everything

We often talk about the cure for cancer as a way of future casting. It is a stand-in for the impossible. If we can cure cancer, we can cure anything and everything. There is no reason to believe there will not be a cure for everything, including the common cold. It begins with the kind of technology that advances antibody development. We are already using it to come up with vaccines.

Healthcare Security

Healthcare IoT security is not the biggest security concern for healthcare. Right now, your hospital could be shut down due to ransomware attacks. Most of those attacks are powered by old computers, poor data security, and cryptocurrency. all of the data stored on hospital computers can be held hostage for large sums of money, or deleted altogether. Just imagine the chaos if, instead of deleting records, criminals distorted the records, assigning surgeries to the wrong patient, or changing prescriptions for patients. This would cause utter chaos and destroy the confidence people have in the healthcare system. That is the threat we face today.

The first thing all organizations need is a bullet-proof backup strategy that will allow them to blow away the data on all of their systems and replace that data at a moment’s notice. That kind of redundancy is expensive, but it’s also necessary, considering the threats. Another measure is to air gap all systems from the internet. Internal networks should not be accessible by systems connected to external networks. That hardly seems practical right now. But it is far better than going in to get a mole removed and coming out minus a leg. In modern healthcare, the weakest link is not the doctors and nurses, but the computer tech on which they rely. We can and must do better.

Consumer Tech and Early Warning

One of the most important factors in surviving cancer or any other deadly disease is early warning. The sooner doctors know about the disease, the better your chances of surviving and having a normal life. Mammograms save lives. That is an example of how technology is at the heart of a longer and healthier life expectancy. Technology is also what gives us better disease screenings for COVID, and the like. Many people were able to take a few days off work for treatment and recovery, then get on with their lives as if nothing ever happened. Part of the reason the current pandemic isn’t as deadly as previous plagues is because we are fortunate enough to live in a time when we are able to catch problems early and treat them before they become life-threatening.

Health tech is not magic. We have to stop treating it that way. It is human innovation that brings out the best and worst in us. It will get better when we remember that it is a part of every cure we have today. But it can be misused if we don’t secure it. Like freedom, its price is eternal vigilance.

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