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Blunders and Wonders: High-Risk Healthcare Data & Vaccine Reluctance


Healthcare data security and patient vaccine adherence should be viewed as investments, not costs.

Hello! I’m Dr. Nick, the Incrementalist, and here today to talk about Blunders and Wonders

Blunder: Vulnerable Health Data

This week’s Blunder: Failure to secure healthcare systems. Healthcare data is very lucrative for attackers, representing a rich tapestry of information that offers multiple potential value points for resale to the hacking community. That’s alongside the fact that hackers know healthcare data is not typically very secure, not to mention their affinity for out-of-data operating systems, which all add up to a veritable feeding frenzy of attacks on healthcare data and systems

Healthcare data and systems have a huge target on their back, so ignoring this from the hospital perspective or the vendor perspective is misguided. Making sure hardware, software and all the devices are upgraded to the latest releases is not a “nice to have,” but an essential part of offering a safe and trustworthy service to your patients.

As part of any new installation or upgrade, include a planned obsolescence of the systems you are replacing. Too often, old systems and devices persist in facilities because no one was charged with the responsibility of removing them. Probably much like your own home, where you likely have a tray of old devices that you no longer use, but you just haven’t got around to getting rid of. The difference in healthcare is that those devices represent potential risks to patient safety and data security.

Ultimately, your employees are your first and best line of defense. Empower them to both understand these risks, call them out and mitigate them directly, where possible, and if not, implement clear lines of escalation to the help desks, who can take action on the keen insights provided by the employees on the front line of delivering care. This will help provide protection to your system and data.

Your incremental step for dealing with these threats is to stop seeing cybersecurity as a cost and to see it as an investment in the safe, trustworthy delivery of healthcare.

Wonder: Vaccines for the Immunocompromised

This week’s wonder: Vaccines for the immunocompromised. Let’s be clear: Vaccines save lives. There is no question that they have contributed to some of the biggest advances in improved healthy living and have even almost wiped out diseases. In fact, it would have been impossible for me to imagine when I was training to be a doctor over 30 years ago that I would see a resurgence of pertussis or whooping cough and measles, but that’s where we are.

The underlying reasons are complex, but relate to an unfounded lack of trust in vaccines thanks to fraudulent claims and amplification of these messages in social media. The consequence of this is a reduction in herd immunity that exposes at-risk groups, who are unable to be vaccinated to diseases long thought to have been eradicated.

So while we struggle to educate the population, let’s look at a recently published study in the Journal of Immunology that identified a new target protein that is important in regulating the immune response called CBLB in mouse models. This can be targeted in combination with an inactivated vaccine to elicit immunity through a unique T cell pathway and this offers hope to an approach that may lead to protective vaccines for immune-impaired patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, immunosuppressive therapy, or immune deficiency.

That’s great news for the wide collection of people who sadly now live in the shadow of fear of diseases that should have been left as a historical footnote but have reemerged as a threat.

Until next time I’m Dr. Nick, the Incrementalist — don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.

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More Blunders and Wonders of the Digital Transformation:

Cancer’s Price Tag & Sneaky Sugar

Patient Access & CRISPR

EMR Interfaces and Continuous Blood Pressure Monitors

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