Is Cyber Security One of the Biggest Threats to the Stability of Healthcare?

Is cyber security one of the biggest threats to the stability of healthcare?

July 2022

Did you know that hackers hit a whopping 81% of all healthcare organisations in the UK in 2021?

The bad news doesn’t stop there. As our world slowly moves many of its operations into the digital sphere, the attack vectors are increasing tenfold. Data breaches increased by 68% in 2021, and the trend is only on the rise.

The NHS is making big strides with its online booking and NHS app, and yet this progress gives hackers more opportunities to compromise healthcare. Healthcare professionals must adopt rigorous cyber security solutions now. When ransomware threatens to steal confidential records and payment information, the cost of failure is higher than ever.

Healthcare cyber security is more important than ever, but luckily there are solutions to stop hackers in their tracks. In this article, you’ll learn about the healthcare challenges associated with increased cyber attacks, and what we can do.

What Unique Cyber Security Issues in Healthcare Affect This Industry?

The challenges in healthcare give hackers many ways to infiltrate and steal data. It makes healthcare cyber security specialised compared to the typical IT needs of other businesses.

For starters, healthcare is a treasure trove for hackers. It includes personal information and payment information that sells for a premium on the dark net. A user can change their password at any time, but it’s impossible for them to change sensitive personal medical data.

Further, this high-value information is often time-sensitive. Hackers know that they can demand exorbitant sums with ransomware because hospitals and clinics cannot delay. Some of this information is needed to deliver timely, crucial treatment to patients.

To take this further, cyber security challenges in healthcare can lead to the loss of innocent lives. In some cases, hackers can shut down the operations of a hospital for hours or even days. When an emergency room needs these systems to be operational, innocent people could die while waiting.

Finally, healthcare compliance is crucial. A hack could lead to your failure to comply with HIPAA and other security and privacy rules. Lack of compliance leads to a lack of trust with customers, which in turn only soils the service healthcare can provide.

Healthcare is a pivotal component of our society. Cyber security issues in healthcare could cause significant damage.

There’s an adage in the cyber security industry: it’s not a matter of if they hack you, but when. Healthcare providers that are prepared for the onslaught of cyber threats will fare better when that inevitable day comes.

Online Patient Databases

It used to be that patient records were stored on paper, on-site. However, in the modern era, most of these doctor/patient agreements and treatment plans are stored online. Rather than filling out paperwork, many patients do it all on their phones beforehand.

This amazing convenience means that hackers can gain access to this vital information with greater ease. For the reasons illustrated above, this can prove to be a terrifying weakness in the system.

Using the best practice can avoid these headaches. This includes storing medical records in encrypted form, limiting permissions to access them, and following privacy guidelines.

Medical Devices Connected to the IoT (Internet of Things)

The internet of things is a shorthand for the smart devices that make up our everyday life. This can be anything from a digital doorbell with a camera, to an air conditioner that you can control with your phone. These devices talk to each other and allow the free flow of data and coordination between disparate systems.

IoT in the medical industry has been a game-changer. It allows doctors to measure hundreds of patients from afar, with wearables and other monitoring devices that report changes and treatment reminders. Further, IoT allows for improved home care of the elderly.

In a hospital, this can handle everything from asset tracking (wheelchairs, defib units, etc.) to controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

IoT means that the attack surface for hackers has expanded exponentially. Instead of one single infiltration point, a hacker has hundreds of potential infil points. If the IT team failed to upgrade the firmware on a single wearable, that could be all a hacker needs to compromise the system.

Since the IoT is all about interconnectivity and interoperability, that means, compromising one system gives you access to them all. Rigorous cyber security solutions are key to ensuring all these potential holes are patched.

Telehealth and Mobile Health

The pandemic saw the rise of long-distance healthcare. This prevents the spread of infection, keeps sick or injured people at home, and reduces the crowding at the doctor’s office.

This also means that hackers can interrupt this sensitive process. Using end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and other techniques can reduce hackers’ influence in this area.

Tips for Cyber Security in Healthcare Industry

Sometimes the best things you can do are the simplest. Here are a few easy tips anyone can employ to improve their organisational cyber security:

  • Update all software, operating systems, and firmware in a timely manner
  • Update passwords on a regular basis with strong, long passphrases
  • Use two-factor authentication to reduce credential theft
  • Train staff to recognise scams such as phishing emails
  • Limit credentials to trusted staff alone
  • Resort to experts to customise a solution for your organisation

It’s important to note here that solutions to healthcare cyber security don’t need to be disruptive. They won’t reduce the quality of care, and they’ll save you from a lot of headaches in the long run. The NHS can and should improve the care it provides by bolstering it with top-of-the-line cyber security.

Protect Your Patient Information

Cyber security is no longer an option in healthcare, it’s a necessity. Cyber attacks are only on the rise, and those who fail to prepare will suffer severe consequences. Luckily, there is a great deal that your organisation can do to nip these attacks in the bud.

Cyber security challenges in healthcare are increasing with every passing year. Get in contact with experts who specialise in the healthcare industry to build your battle plan for when hackers come knocking.

NHS care revolutionised with launch of ICS

NHS care revolutionised with launch of ICS

July 2022

Friday 1 July sees Integrated Care Systems take over from Clinical Commissioning Groups – one of the most significant changes in NHS procurement for many years.

The change will see 42 new ICSs established across England who will provide collaborative healthcare within their designated area. The new ICS model sees health and care services joined up across regions, with local authorities working together with healthcare providers, GP teams, hospitals, and other partners to improve services and deliver better outcomes for people who live and work in their area.

The journey

The journey to deliver joined up health care service has been several years in the making, with the NHS setting out its vision for the future in 2014. Partners began working to bring Integrated Care Systems to fruition in 2016, with the first models emerging in 2018 and NHS England working closely with them to pioneer best practice.

The Purpose

The purpose of ICSs is to bring partner organisations together to:

  • improve outcomes in population health and healthcare
  • tackle inequalities in outcomes, experience and access
  • enhance productivity and value for money
  • help the NHS support broader social and economic development.

New initiatives

Boosting health checks in the community to find people with health problems before they become seriously unwell is a key goal of the shift to integrated care systems.

New initiatives being implemented through the systems include a GP practice in Stockport which is going into betting shops to deliver blood pressure checks, identifying and preventing hypertension issues before people end up in hospital.

In Coventry and North Warwickshire, a local sports club offers diabetes and weight management support, taking referrals from GP teams but also reaching out to people in the local area they think might be most at-risk. People can receive tailored one to one diet and lifestyle support, and access to the club’s gym facilities.

And thanks to these local authority partnerships in Bedfordshire, patients who frequently call 999 but do not need emergency help are given alternative “lifesaving” support in their community, ensuring peoples’ needs are met as well as freeing up staff time to deal with emergency calls.

Saving lives and reducing costs

The changes are set to save an estimated £14M each year by reducing the number of chief executives working in the NHS by almost 170.

New systems are already proving to be an effective tool in tackling the covid backlogs, with eight systems reducing two-year waiters to single figures ahead of the end of July target. Nationally, there are 70% fewer two-year waiters than in January.


Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “Integrated care systems have the power to truly transform the way that we care for people up and down the country – not only will the NHS provide care when someone is unwell or has an accident but alongside our local government partners, we must also now play an increasing key role in managing peoples’ health so that we can catch more killer conditions earlier and save lives.

“Local areas are already doing this by going out into communities to spot signs and symptoms earlier in places such as sports clubs and betting shops as well as ensuring people can access community support rather than using 999 or going to A&E.

“Through these schemes, we are already making a massive difference to peoples’ lives. The NHS will now build on this success and innovation and deliver care for patients that is fit for the future as well as saving taxpayers’ millions of pounds each year”.


What does this mean for you and how HCI can help

The HCI research team have been busy updating our extensive NHS contacts database with details of the 42 new ICS organisations and the staff who will be working within them.

Our research is meticulous – after all, this is much more than a public sector re-branding exercise. New organisations, new roles, new responsibilities and new routes to engagement – it’s a major change that any business supplying to the NHS needs to be across.

We’ll be publishing transition updates on the HCI website and will provide further insights into the changes and what they mean for the NHS supply chain.

Interested in finding out more about what HCI can do for you?

Book a demonstration today and explore the world of opportunity in regard to healthcare tendering.

What NHS privatisation could mean for the future of healthcare contractors?

What NHS privatisation could mean for the future of healthcare contractors?

July 2022

This year, the UK government signed the Health and Care Act 2022. The bill captured the attention of the public eye for its implications for a privatised health service.

Over 1 million people work under the NHS. The British Medical Association estimates that independent service providers carry out 5.2% of NHS-funded treatments.

They report that health care contractors became an integral part of NHS services during the pandemic. But, while there are benefits to outsourcing health care, there are also many dangers.

This article will discuss what NHS privatisation could mean for health care contractors.

Let’s dive in!

What is the new Health and Care Act 2022

In coordination with the King’s Trust, an independent government adviser, the act aims to create an “integrated care system” (ICS).

The current NHS system works under clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). Wherein NHS services were managed and held accountable by a local governing body. Under the new bill, these will be replaced with smaller ICS groups.

The move formalises relationships with collaborative partners. Using the ICS model, local services will now need to join with a private service provider.

These lead providers will take the role of outsourcing NHS services where they see fit. The lead providers themselves will only answer to the NHS England commissioner.

Advantages and disadvantages of NHS privatisation

On the one hand, privately outsourcing NHS providers could increase the scale and efficiency of national services.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHS has always involved public and private provisions. In fact, the vast majority of GPs providing NHS services are independent contractors.

Under the 1946 NHS Act, local practices operate as their own business entities. The government supplements them based on how many NHS patients registered with them.

But, they are still private employees. This had benefits, such as:

  • Increased public services
  • Better employee benefits
  • Expanded patient coverage
  • Reduced waiting times

But, the increased privatisation of the NHS suggested by the new bill also has disadvantages. For starters, by cutting down local NHS oversight, there’s less transparency.

Private companies don’t have to meet the same accountability standards as public service contractors.

We also see:

  • Increasing expenses going towards private services and away from public funding
  • Less continuity for patients
  • More competition for healthcare contractors
  • Gives private providers the power to terminate services it deems unprofitable

For healthcare contractors, this can mean a loss of employment. Not to mention less financial stability and a potentially unregulated market where they compete to win NHS contracts.

Moreover, it removes many of the safeguards on which those contracts are founded. For instance, adequate pay, healthcare and contracted hours.

A lack of transparency not only disadvantages patients. But under NHS privatisation, workers have less protection against unfair employment practices.

What does the future hold for healthcare contractors under NHS privatisation?

The government has begun an NHS recovery plan backing the new Health and Care Act. This plan is designed to manage the treatment backlog that accumulated during the pandemic.

It also covers expanding workforce capacity. Not least by creating a more sustainable system for future staffing.

In a 2022 parliament debate, MP Matt Vickers stated:

“The Government have no democratic mandate to privatise the NHS, which is why they are doing no such thing. Access to NHS services will continue to be based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay.”

But, their plan suggests somewhat of a contradiction. On the one hand, it advocates using collaborative partnerships with private providers. Whilst also calling for reducing agency workers.

Independent contractors are a fundamental part of the plan. They can sit on lead provider boards which influence local strategy. Yet, they also are not permitted to directly influence local decision-making.

Some have argued that the new act will create a “pay for play” system. The NHS’s authority will become increasingly centralised as actual services are fragmented.

The arguments continue regarding whether the new bill will improve or deprive the healthcare sector.

But, one thing remains clear: Healthcare contractors need to prepare themselves for the new role they’ll play in the future of the NHS. Regardless of the level of privatisation.

How can healthcare contractors prepare for NHS privatisation?

Firstly, with the growth of private healthcare, NHS contracts will become increasingly competitive. Between 2019 and 2020, the NHS spent £9.7 billion on services delivered by the private sector.

This reflects a 7.2% budget devoted to private care providers. Some include social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations. Yet, the vast majority went to independent service providers.

Healthcare contractors working for these organisations are more likely to succeed in bids for NHS contracts. Not least because they often have more resources to compete.

Winning NHS contract bids is a matter of early engagement. As well as being able to meet NHS stipulations of the tender contract.

Getting ahead

For the best possible chance at success, healthcare contractors need to know the dynamics of the healthcare market (including the potential for NHS privatisation).

They must be able to proactively seek out market and contract opportunities. Whilst simultaneously knowing how to reach contract requirements.

To do this, independent businesses need to be aware of the latest data in the UK procurement market. This includes market analysis, contact pipelines and leads.