Digital healthcare is popular, but calls for security remain

IT service Utimaco has researched how widely trusted digital healthcare is for the public and found that trust over security is the most important issue

In the modern world, it remains even more critical for consumers to trust that the companies and government departments holding data have the owners best interests in mind and are protecting that data from those who would exploit it. In fact, research from Utimaco has shown that 63% of the UK public would use digital services to access healthcare when possible. However, only 46% consider the information they send to their providers to be secure. 

That’s why the team at Utimaco have explored this further, to really understand whether people actually trust the important digital services that they interact with.


Connecting patient healthcare data and 5G

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, many hospitals and general practitioner (GP) offices switched to phone consultations, video chats and other digital means in order to treat patients. The NHS App has now been downloaded over 16m times, which was crucial for giving the government oversight into the spread of COVID-19. However, there has been a move to digitalise the systems that allow various NHS offices to share information and centralise records.

Moreover, in order to test and evaluate the efficiency, safety, and security of 5G connected devices, NHS Digital announced that a 5G connected hospital trial went live at two wards within the trust in July this year. It aims to optimise timesaving for clinicians, improvement of patient records, and applications that enable the use of devices to monitor patients' vital signs and to digitally update records. Significant and life-saving improvements can be achieved with the combined use of 5G and eHealth IoT. This will be accomplished by utilising Virgin Media O2 Businesses’ private 5G network in order to deliver dedicated, high-speed data meaning that clinicians will not need to use the hospital’s WiFi.

Ansgar Steden, Chief Revenue Officer at Utimaco, researched the public's trust of digital healthcare

5G has a promising future but security remains paramount in digital healthcare

This innovation certainly demonstrates how 5G has the potential to transform all the critical components in many areas of healthcare. It also includes high-definition remote operations, transferring large medical files, connected ambulances to help to treat patients in transit, devices for real-time monitoring and continued remote support to patients.

However, having sensitive health records stored digitally may open them up to being compromised. 70% of the public surveyed revealed that they worry to some level about the security of their data when using this type of tech. On the contrary, 46% believe that their data held by the NHS is secure. This paints a very different picture. So, why is there a discrepancy in the level of trust?

There is widespread support among the UK public towards the NHS as an institution, despite frequent press reports of long waiting times and a service that has been ‘pushed to the brink’ by years of austerity. 89% believe that the government should support a national health service that is tax funded and free at the point of use. As such, they would not feel comfortable sharing personal information digitally with healthcare providers that are not part of the NHS.

Thus, as technology advances, solutions are necessary for transmitting and accessing extremely sensitive healthcare data and devices under highly secured channels. As devices need to ‘know and trust’ each other, digital identity becomes even more vital.


Trusted devices and encrypted data are crucial for secured data sharing

In the wake of 5G across the globe, the healthcare industry is fast becoming a ‘smart health environment’. Therefore, solutions are crucial for transmitting and accessing extremely sensitive healthcare data and devices under highly secured channels.

When components are enhanced through cryptographic key injection during the manufacturing process, for example, the path to secure identity begins. Key injection gives every device a  trusted identity which is achieved by utilising a highly secure and certified Hardware Security Module (HSM).

Additionally, eHealth devices are operated within public key infrastructures (PKI) to ensure confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, and non-repudiation of sensitive information. The use of PKI-based device certificates also ensures online trust, privacy, and security in the world of connected devices which should be managed securely and centrally.


Trust in digital healthcare has a promising future 

Overall, there is clearly the need to do more with less, but digital technology is certainly well placed to achieve this. Utimaco’s research shows a positive picture of trust in a digital age, although work needs to be done to match that level of trust to the enthusiasm the public has for digital services.


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