Digital Security: What do we expect from it?
Digital Security: What do we expect from it?

Gabrielle Speijer, MD

ICT&health, 11/2022

Digital Security: What do we expect from it?

Just a few centuries ago, it was normal to hold witches responsible for cholera and typhoid fever. There was no sewage or water treatment system, which cost many people their health, lives, and money. It took a long time for society to see the obvious connection, which we now take for granted, and take action. Analogous to how water was treated during the industrial revolution, a parallel can now be drawn with how we treat information in the digital domain during this technological revolution. It is now time for a mindshift and action to secure digital security.

Cybercriminals in charge

Back then, it was about controlling outbreaks of infectious diseases caused by water pollution; today, it is about safely managing (access to) sensitive information. As a board member of a healthcare institution, you run the risk of having to do “business” with cybercriminals when you are forced to buy back “kidnapped” sensitive information. Think of the incident at Maastricht University two years ago. Legal liability and prosecution as directors for negligence, let alone the total costs involved and the damage caused by a suspended operation, is another current issue. And keep in mind, in healthcare, this is about life or death, or at least recovery or complication. Additionally, there is also secondary damage, such as corrupted information that can lead to serious medical errors; stolen information that can be sold for blackmail; phishing, buying prescription medication to file false insurance claims, and so on. A recent example of this is the WannaCry ransomware attack in the United Kingdom, which was estimated to cost more than $100 million, on top of the disruptive effect on healthcare.

Do no harm

And to think that something like this can happen because one employee clicked on that link in that phishing email a few years ago, or because one poorly protected website, server, or database under your management. Not to mention the medical devices and all the peripheral equipment that can provide notoriously insecure places in the ecosystem. Because outdated software that no longer receives updates is a fantastic target. Especially with a significant growth in technological support, this requires our continuous attention. For those who would like to seek restriction and control, the bad news is that this is no longer sustainable because guaranteeing safety and care according to today’s standards means continuously integrating state-of-the-art technology. Furthermore, an increasing number of devices (such as wearables), regardless of how useful they are, will be connected to the web as an IoT and will require management to ensure continuous security.

Technology is also a solution

Now, one could lose heart, especially in the light of the necessary cost savings in healthcare, but the same technology also provides us with the solution! An enormous time-waster and irritation for healthcare professionals is the extreme amount of administrative obstacles and proliferation of certification in healthcare in general. Just as setting up and performing periodic checks and measurements, for example. This causes healthcare professionals to lag behind. Technology will increasingly offer the possibility to transparently show real-time performance without time-consuming hindsight reporting and reporting.


To fully utilize technology in the workplace, it is crucial that our mindset shifts from accountability to openness to new possibilities. Working together, supported by technology, should become the standard. As technical processes are increasingly facilitated, we as healthcare professionals can take on the role that suits our expertise and experience. This way, you also have an immediate overview of which technology components and services support your healthcare and their 24/7 performance. And of the data of…

About the author

Gabriëlle Speijer is a Radiation Oncologist at the Haga Hospital, founder of the healthcare innovation company CatalyzIT, HIMSS Future50 International HealthIT leader and member of the ICT&health editorial board.