A recent 2021 IDG research study sponsored by Masergy and Fortinet explored the state of IT in the healthcare industry and revealed the key challenges faced by IT security teams.
2020 has certainly been a challenging year for the healthcare IT teams. In response to the pandemic, IT teams have had to accelerate digital transformations, greatly expand telemedicine, support an increasingly remote workforce, and cope with an increasing number of Internet of Medical Things (IMT) devices, while ensuring sufficient bandwidth is available and systems and data remain secured.
For the report, 200 IT leaders from hospitals, primary and urgent care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and other healthcare entities were surveyed to find out how the pandemic has changed demands for network resiliency and cloud security and how IT challenges were being solved.
“Healthcare IT teams have daunting technical challenges to ensure network bandwidth, resilience, and security in the face of surging online care, including telemedicine, remote workforces, and medical IoT,” said Masergy VP of innovation, Ray Watson. “The IDG Healthcare IT survey reveals that an integrated network and security strategy is now an imperative to address these challenges.”
The pandemic has placed more demands on IT infrastructure, with 95% of respondents reporting an increase in network traffic since March 2020. The increased number of connected medical devices and changes to remote working has created bandwidth problems, with 92% of respondents saying they had to increase bandwidth network capacity in response to the increase in connected medical devices.
The pandemic-led changes have created security challenges for healthcare IT teams, with increased use of the cloud creating cloud security challenges for 46% of respondents with 46% of respondents saying the security of connected medical devices was a key issue. The increased remote and mobile workforce was rated as a key security challenge by 36% of respondents.
“With the surge of remote healthcare and increased use of IoMT devices, there are more connected devices, cloud-based applications, and cloud platforms and services driving healthcare operations than ever,” explained the researchers in the report.
The increase in devices and cloud-based applications has introduced security risks. Cybercriminals are aware of the challenges faced by healthcare IT teams and attacks on healthcare organizations have been stepped up during the pandemic. Phishing and ransomware were rated as the top concerns by survey respondents.
The threat surface has grown considerably as a result of the increase in devices, cloud applications, and changes in work practices, which have forced a shift in network strategy which is now focused on reliability and security for remote and cloud-based activities.
“The data reveals themes around convergence and simplicity, helping us further understand how healthcare IT organizations will thrive in 2021,” said Troy Ament, field CISO for healthcare at Fortinet. “IT leaders prefer integrated network and security technologies that provide a more effective approach for managing digital healthcare and medical IoT devices.”
More healthcare providers are realizing the benefits of investing in network and security infrastructure as an integrated platform. 71% of respondents said its highly important to integrate network solutions with security policies, which used to be considered as separate, competing issues. 60% said they believe it is better to use a single security architecture instead of multiple solutions from different vendors to ensure consistent policies are implemented across multiple sites. An ultra-low latency network was also considered to be critical by 67% of respondents.
“A single platform which addresses both security and the network can often reduce operational complexity,” said Watson. “Telemedicine is a voracious consumer of bandwidth, and protecting patient information requires more security at the network edge and in the cloud. Thus, IT organizations are putting more emphasis on unified strategies, technologies, and operations. This is exactly why Fortinet and Masergy partner together to offer SD-WAN and end-to-end security services all in one fully managed solution.”