Are the medical devices attached to your network secured?

We have many medical clients including Dentists, Optometrists, Chiropractors, General Practitioners and Plastic Surgeons. One of the issues in servicing this market is working with medical device vendors.  There is a wide range of technology out there and these include devices such as 3D retinal scanners to the more common digital xrays and cameras.

The problem is that these devices are becoming more popular without consideration to the IT infrastructure of the doctor’s practice. What I mean by that is, these devices are now being placed on the network with access to shared folders of data, internet and wifi services without necessarily discussing the repercussions with the client.

In most cases, the device vendors just assume they are good to go, they proceed to install their equipment without full disclosure of what that means to the rest of the systems. Just like any other purchase, a good salesman can make the client feel comfortable in purchasing the equipment without fully understanding what is happening.

This can be an especially significant problem for IT when the medical devices run either antiquated technology or cross platform non compatible technology like Windows XP, Serial cable connections or Linux operating systems.

A good example is an office we recently had issues with, where the doctor was “intimidated” by the vendor to purchase a specific type of scanner only to find out that the pc attached to it was running Windows XP 64-bit. This caused problems on both on policy side and technology side that was all modernized in terms of now having an unsupported and vulnerable system connected live to the internet through the office network. He was committed to a 5 year contract for this device and the vendor would not allow changes or modifications to their provided equipment without significant cost adjustments.

There are also medical standards and laws that govern certain device configuration and operating specification that make it difficult when something goes wrong.

Unfortunately, the device vendors have spent their money on creating amazing technologies to scan, image and process medical examinations but their interfaces can be  sorely lacking.

Many times a doctor purchases and agrees to a contract for a device without discussing it with their IT first which leaves us reeling to “make it work” quickly and in some cases in a jury-rigged manner. This can be frustrating and time consuming and ultimately more expensive than the client thought.

Many times the IT provider can not only help determine what path to follow, but can help save money but asking the right questions of the vendor before any commitment is made. By not involving IT in these discussions, the cost of “fixing” or “adjusting” things after the device is purchased and installed can cost big bucks in research, down time and any “extra” the vendors have to do to make it work.

It always good to remember, IT or “Computer” guys are not just there to fix problems that arise but they can be used to help plan your long term technology needs and prevent issues from arising.

If you wish to discuss this article, please feel free to contact us anytime.

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