Infection prevention with networked devices

Interview with Frank-Ralf Mayer, Business Development Germany, Cicor


It is possible to save resources in a hospital by using networked devices – processes work more properly and more quickly this way. But there is also a certain amount of risk: If a device is infected with malware, the infection will spread very fast. Therefore, it is important to protect the networked devices and especially the sensitive patient data. talked to Frank-Ralf Mayer about the role of networked devices in everyday hospital life and the possibility of infection prevention beyond hygiene and cleaning.

Image: Frank-Ralf Mayer; Copyright: Frank-Ralf Mayer

Frank Ralf-Mayer; © Frank-Ralf Mayer

How can infections in hospitals be prevented by networked devices; which specific devices are they?

Frank-Ralf Mayer: To prevent infections in hospitals by networked devices and thus control access to sensitive patient and hospital data, authentication systems or authentication platforms are required. These infections are primarily IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) infections, that being infections that can interfere, interrupt or impede the smooth operation of networked devices, the entire network or just individual areas of operation. This means infections that gain unauthorized access to general, specific or pertinent data; that steal, change or destroy this information or partially or completely prevent its use. Then there are infections that are deliberately controlled by third parties and those that are specifically targeted at ERP systems (enterprise resources planning programs) and want to gain unauthorized access to hospital systems.  

Which devices and what data play a role in this?

Mayer: All connected devices. These are devices that store or transmit sensitive data, or whose data or control system can be remotely accessed from another location. Devices that are connected to ensure smooth operation or are remotely controlled elsewhere, whose status via the IoMT and the necessary software systems is externally monitored or externally controlled. Also, devices with internet access and access to third-party data, within the framework of a hospital network for instance.
There are different types of data. On the one hand, there is system-permanent data that facilitates the operation of the respective devices. On the other hand, there is data used to manage hospital operations as well as manage and monitor hospital care provision. Data on employees, work schedules, occupancy rates and patients as well as scheduled treatments including the use of equipment. And there is also data on drug regulations, prescriptions, the prescribing physician, all data on the insured person and insurance data.

Which devices can be connected to each other and what are the subsequent benefits?

Mayer:  All networked equipment that provides a benefit. In essence, we are talking about resource efficiency – by connecting the respective devices, resources can be saved. The required data can be made available more quickly to ensure proper operation, while the administrative effort can be significantly reduced. This means networked devices simplify operations and require fewer employees.
How complex and expensive is this networking? Does it also pay off financially?
Mayer: Hospital organizations, whose infrastructure doesn’t make it possible to facilitate large-scale installations, media web working groups and environmental management, but also doesn’t allow the proper use or control of finances, will sooner or later no longer be viable.
Image: Doctor with laptop, on which screen viruses are visible; Copyright:


What technologies are used to connect the devices?

Mayer: We must be able to work flexibly in the area of technology; we need to embrace the benefit of the device and comply with legal regulations.
At Cicor, we generally use those technologies that are most beneficial for the respective devices or systems in the areas of engineer-to-order or build-to-order. If we have a monitor control system, for example, we need to ensure that the connection to this control system is as good as possible but at the same time also permits reasonable operation. On the other hand, if you are dealing with key figures, you must treat them in accordance with cyber security guidelines. Without this type of treatment of their entire equipment or systems, our customers will not obtain the necessary approval for sale.

What role does big data play?

Mayer: In medical technology, the term "big data" requires a differentiated view as it relates to one or multiple hospitals since hospital chains collaborate with third-party institutions. These can be special research institutes or institutes that offer special high tech devices or know-how. And big data also means to apply other structures in data management or to consider them in development. And, of course, to also include potential future combined interfaces during the development.

Can you give us a concrete example?

Mayer: Equipment condition monitoring for example. This can be operating material that always needs to be on hand but also special bone screws or spinal cord sleeves, which are only ordered as needed.

How is data protection ensured?

Mayer: Through continuous maintenance and regular system updates of the integrated system devices or networks. In addition, access needs to be restricted to a specific device so that it cannot be used by everyone. That is to say, decentralized or central authentication systems or platforms must be professionally programmed and implemented internally and externally, depending on the purpose, connectivity, accessibility and access frequency.

Is there still room for improvement?  

Mayer: New devices always present new challenges manufacturers or development companies can only address if they keep up with the latest developments in technology. You need to train your associates in this regard, always communicate with other companies on this topic while you need to also include special IT companies that are exclusively dedicated to this special technology in your projects at the same time.
The interview was conducted by Nicole Kaufmann and translated from German by Elena O'Meara.