Increase in IoMT Devices During COVID-19 Leads to Health IT Challenges

Survey findings demonstrate the challenges of the increased use of health tech due to COVID-19.

A majority of health IT leaders (92%) had to increase network bandwidth capacity to accommodate an influx of connected medical devices, according to the findings of a survey conducted by Masergy.

The results of the new survey shed light on the increased use of health IT since March 2020. The survey, taken by 200 IT leaders from hospitals, primary and urgent care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and other healthcare entities, aimed to show how pandemic-driven changes have accelerated demands for network resiliency and cloud security. In fact, 95% of respondents reported an increase in network traffic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The top three security challenges for healthcare IT were cloud security (46%), security of medical connected devices (46%), and remote and mobile workforce (36%). Due to the surge of remote healthcare and the increased use of IoMT devices, there are more connected devices, cloud-based applications, and cloud platforms and services driving healthcare operations. Because of this, security risks are increased, including data breaches, phishing, and malware attacks.

“Now you’ve got healthcare systems making a significant cloud migration, so healthcare organizations are going to need to continue to focus on new risk assessments and protect those new workflows,” Troy Ament, Fortinet’s field chief information security officer for healthcare, said in a statement.

Healthcare organizations have increased their bandwidth capacity to accommodate the ever-increasing influx of IoMT devices (45% reported to a great extent; 47% reported to some extent). The increases shift IT priorities and cause healthcare leaders to change their strategy and rethink their infrastructure.

An increase in health tech devices means healthcare executives are increasing their IT budgets. More than half of respondents (54%) expect their IT budgets to increase in 2021. Survey data reveal budgets being used for convergence, simplicity, and achieving a level of network performance certainty.

Further, 71% of those surveyed considered it highly important to integrate network solutions with security policies. It is highly important to have a single security architecture with consistent security policies across multiple locations, according to 60% of respondents. A majority of participants (80%) indicated they were likely or very likely (44%) to engage a managed services provider to handle network or security services.

“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,” Ray Watson, vice president of innovation at Masergy, said. “The IDG Healthcare IT survey reveals that an integrated network and security strategy is now an imperative to address these challenges.”