by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – THE emergence of new technologies is a double-edged sword for the South African health sector.
South Africa is poised to benefit from a flurry of healthcare technologies that could dramatically improve patient care at a lower cost, boost preventative healthcare and take the best medical practitioners virtually to the most underserved regions of the country.
However, these exciting new developments in healthcare technology could also put patients at risk amid cyber security threats.
This is according to experts who warn that the promise of emerging healthcare technologies could derail these risks.
Doros Hadjizenonos, Regional Sales Director Southern African Development Community (SADC) at Fortinet, said Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices were increasingly being adopted for greater efficiency and improved patient care in the healthcare sector.
These tiny, connected devices are deployed to monitor patient vital signs and treatment, track pharmaceuticals and control medical equipment throughout hospitals.
“We are seeing adoption and interest from private hospital chains locally, who are considering IoT for efficiencies, for managing patients and analysing data,” Hadjizenonos said.
He said there was potential to deploy IoT for patient monitoring both at home and in hospitals, for example connected beds with oxygen meters and heart rate monitors feeding information back to nurses’ stations.
“IoT can also be used to automate devices administering treatment, such like ventilators,” Hadjizenonos explained.
International Data Corporation’s Worldwide Internet of Things Spending Guide forecast of May 2021 says worldwide spend on IoT is anticipated to pass US$1 trillion by 2024, with South Africa among the fastest-growing IoT markets in the MEA region, growing at an expected annual 14 percent from 2020 to 2025.
The global IoMT market was valued at $44,5 million back in 2018, and is expected to grow to $254,2 million in 2026, according to AllTheResearch.
However, Matthew Taljaard, Subject Matter Expert for Operational Technology at Fortinet, noted as smart technologies start controlling surgeries and patient treatment, the risks associated with advanced healthcare could grow.
“Data privacy and cyber security are already a key concern in healthcare, as healthcare records are a prime target for cyber
criminals,” he said.
Fortinet finds that medical records are worth ten times more than credit card numbers on the black market.
On top of that, it has seen in the industrial sector, as IT and OT converge, cyber risk can threaten health and safety in the physical domain.
“This could put patient lives at risk should cyber attackers access physical patient monitoring and treatment systems,” Taljaard said.
Fortinet believes by properly securing the healthcare environment a safe platform can be created to give health professionals and patients the confidence to benefit from all the advanced medical technologies coming to market.
– CAJ News