Looking back on 2020, it’s safe to say there was no more important industry than healthcare over the previous 12 months. From the early days of COVID-19 to the current rollout of the vaccine, we’ve seen healthcare professionals form the backbone of the global response to this pandemic, and crucially, hold up a standard of excellence no matter what challenges they’ve faced– whether that’s increasing cyberattacks, limited resources, or a rapid shift to remote care.
As we look ahead to 2021, I predict that much of what we’ve experienced over the past months will stay that same, while other trends will accelerate as we all work to deliver healthcare in a secure, safe and connected manner.
With this in mind, here are my thoughts on the various trends that will impact cybersecurity and healthcare professionals in 2021 and beyond:
- COVID-19 related cyberattacks continue well into 2021 – The trend of coronavirus-related cyberattacks will only accelerate as we move into the next phase of recovery. Attackers have realized there is a significant incentive to capitalize on the confusion caused by the pandemic, especially by preying on stressed healthcare employees working long hours. Ransomware attacks, in particular, will remain at a high level and hospitals must invest in employee awareness training and technological solutions to defend against these threats.
- Telehealth begins to replace primary care visits – COVID-19 demonstrated that telehealth is a viable form of healthcare and one that was quickly adopted as patients and staff were forced to remain at home. As a result, we’re now seeing an industry-wide acceptance of telehealth, and an overall change in patient perception where these digital touchpoints are accepted as a common form of care. At Medigate alone, we’ve seen a significant increase in technology used to support telehealth, resulting in 5 to 10% of new inventory per HDO. As such, what was once predicted to take multiple years has been accomplished in only a few months and in some cases– such as primary care– telehealth could become one of the main forms of treatment by 2022. As this occurs, we’ll also see healthcare organizations invest in the necessary technology to protect the data and devices used for remote care– a move that will significantly change how we envision security in the hospital environment and beyond.
- Hospitals contend with the device goldrush – As the trend of remote care continues, so will the number of IoT devices connecting to a hospital’s network from a variety of secure and unsecure locations. This includes laptops, cellular phones, tablets, and a range of remote patient monitoring devices– everything from an Apple Watch to a device used to treat chronic disease. Hospitals will not only have to secure these endpoints, but also devise the best ways to manage patient information and use it to inform care and treatment processes. This requires a significant allocation of time and resources and I predict hospitals will fully invest in these efforts over the next year.
- Budgets will continue to be squeezed by coronavirus fall – An important, if underreported, aspect of COVID-19 has been the financial impact that the coronavirus continues to inflict on our healthcare system. The urgent need to reallocate resources has squeezed already razor-thin budgets, while hospital leadership and staff are asked to do more with less. A primary cause of this windfall has been the reduction in elective surgeries, due to millions of American workers losing their health insurance as a result of unemployment. Additionally, many hospitals have voluntarily canceled these surgeries to clear bed space and free up staff to prepare for COVID-19 patients. It’s likely that elective surgeries and other revenue generating activities will remain affected through the first quarter of 2021– at least, until a successful vaccine is approved and distributed. In the face of these challenges, hospitals will begin to adopt value-based approaches for all aspects of their operations, including the procurement and management of clinical assets. This will further drive the necessity and value of utilization metrics, especially as they’re used to make data-validated decisions to inform patient care and operational success.