Reports of cyberattacks on hospitals, medtech manufacturers and other players across healthcare supply chains increased again in 2023. Ransomware attacks can be especially devastating, crippling essential systems until ransoms are paid. In July, a cyber-attack on an NHS supplier left two ambulance trusts serving millions of people without access to electronic patient records.
Even beyond outright cyber theft and extortion, subtler data breaches empower counterfeiting schemes and put patients at risk. Fake or adulterated drugs and devices become much easier to produce using stolen proprietary data and distribution plans. Maintaining confidentiality is a vital part of the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients, as people trust that their privacy will be maintained by healthcare professionals, whether in a healthcare setting or online.
To deal with this emerging threat, companies need to implement robust data management systems that ensure data confidentiality and integrity.
Setting up a seamless, decentralised data platform that can record, track, and manage information securely and digitally is vital, while blockchain technology and artificial intelligence can provide a better overview of network weaknesses before they can be exploited.
As healthcare cyberattacks grow more prevalent globally, organisations along the supply chain need to prioritise modern security solutions and staff education to protect patient wellbeing.
The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains worldwide, necessitating major changes to their operations and strategy. In the initial phase of the pandemic, health networks were swamped by the first wave of cases and the required health equipment and medication. The sector worked hard to repurpose therapies and adapt to provide relief to patients suffering severe symptoms, but continued disruptions to the supply chain were inevitable amid Europe-wide surges in demand.
For the most part, Europe managed to prevent the major disruption of emergency and essential medicine supplies – an effort that showcased resilience, agility and the importance of collaboration between stakeholders across the pharmaceutical and healthcare supply chains.
The supply chain industry needs to prioritise more secure networks because the stakes of human health are too high to not learn from past shortcomings.
Businesses are better prepared for cybercrime, but will need to continue to invest in their supply chain security by:
• Conduct regular cybersecurity audits and vulnerability assessments across the entire supply chain network. Identify any gaps or risks and remediate them.
• Implement robust identity and access management protections using multi-factor authentication, role-based access controls, and monitoring for suspicious access attempts.
• Provide comprehensive cybersecurity training to healthcare supply chain employees to spot potential phishing attempts, unsafe browsing, or other risky behaviour.
• Install advanced cybersecurity tools like AI-powered threat detection, anomaly detection systems, firewalls, and antivirus software to establish in-depth defences.
• Have an incident response plan ready with disaster recovery protocols, backup systems, executive support, and public communications strategy.
• Foster collaborations on cyber intelligence sharing and collective vigilance across healthcare organisations, IT services firms, cybersecurity agencies, and throughout the healthcare ecosystem.
Reengineering For Resilience
Today’s healthcare supply chain leaders understand that eventual disruptions are inevitable in increasingly complex global networks. Modern supply chain infrastructure makes transparency and collaboration priority one. Information sharing across the healthcare ecosystem grants all parties situational awareness to troubleshoot issues collectively and in real-time. The overnight success of vaccines shined a spotlight on what focused partnerships can achieve – rather than reverting to old comfortable strategies, healthcare supply chain organisations now must carry lessons learned into a stronger future for global health.
This article was originally published in Logistics Business on January 22, 2024.