Published on 08.11.2021
In medical technology, digitalization primarily means networking. Complex analysis devices can be operated more easily and doctors can communicate with their colleagues in a straightforward manner.
With the fourth industrial revolution already in the process of completely transforming an industry, digitalization is now arriving in medicine as well. However, in laboratories, doctors’ offices and hospitals, the focus is on security and data protection. Doctors can analyze the data collected on site and exchange information with colleagues thanks to networked systems. We found out how this can be implemented in practice in an interview with Markus Dillinger, General Manager Technology at System Industrie Electroinc (S.I.E).
Mr. Dillinger, IoT and the digital factory have arrived in industry and are being used successfully. What does networked medical technology look like?
The operating room of the future, as well as individual medical practices, will be fully digitized and partially automated. However, while automation plays a very important role in industry, in medical technology it is more the networking and the shift of analysis methods to the so-called point-of-care that are to be seen as the drivers of digitalization. Highly complex laboratory analyses can be carried out in ever smaller and, above all, ever easier-to-operate devices. Operation ultimately resembles that of a smartphone. In addition, the analysis and patient data obtained are fully automatically compared with each other, exchanged among doctors and devices, and analyzed.
Digitalization in the medical industry must be done more sensitively than in manufacturing, for example. What do concrete steps toward digital medical technology look like?
As stated in my previous answer, a great deal of data, some of it sensitive, is processed and exchanged digitally. It goes without saying that digitalization must be accompanied by appropriate protection of this sensitive data. Apart from this, the issue of fail-safety in medicine must be viewed much more critically than in many areas of industry. Whereas a stopped assembly line costs money, a failed device in the operating room can have much more serious consequences. Therefore, the principle of “function before safety” applies in the design and development of medical devices. Nevertheless, appropriate safety concepts must be considered and incorporated as early as the development phase.
Modern security concepts are based on the classic pillars of security. Could you please explain this in more detail.
The three so-called pillars of IT security, confidentiality, integrity and availability, have a major influence on modern security concepts for medical devices. The more we work in a fully automated and digitally based manner, the more vulnerable a device becomes to unwanted external access, manipulation and/or misuse. In this context, I consider it particularly important to raise awareness among manufacturers and distributors, as well as physicians in private practice and clinics. Complete security concepts do not start with classic fears such as hackers or database crashes. In principle, most products are easiest to manipulate on site. Access to equipment and premises with sensitive data is often the first starting point that is overlooked. Of course, together with our partners, we also implement solutions for these problems, such as adapted circuit designs to secure USB slots or verification software to prevent manipulation.
prevent manipulations. The solutions and approaches for digitalization are there, but they must be implemented completely and with the utmost care.
Medical data must be secure from access and tampering. How do you safeguard this?
As already mentioned on the topic of security design, an individual, whether a development specialist like us, a manufacturer, a distributor or a physician, can never fully secure data. What is important is a planned and professional interplay of various security mechanisms to reliably secure data, access protection, and access options and authorizations for sensitive areas and equipment. As developers and as drivers of digitalization in medical technology, we see the creation of attention or awareness for the overall topic as one of our most important tasks, in addition to professional security concepts in our own development projects and orders. When an entire industry network is on the verge of a paradigm shift, or even in the midst of its beginnings, this network can only generate optimal solutions together.