Sunday, 10 Dec 2023

Healthcare's edge computing priorities have changed

In the new 2023 Edge Ecosystem report for healthcare, researchers cite the need for these organizations to support remote medical staff to make faster, more informed decisions as the driving force behind the change in their edge computing priorities. The two notable use cases are hospital-at-home and autonomous mobile robots/drones.


Healthcare organizations want remote and emergency medical staff to have the ability to accelerate patient diagnoses and provide initial care to non-urgent cases through telemedicine. 

They also want autonomous robots or drones to disinfect patient rooms and deliver supplies on demand. 

That’s why “edge computing in healthcare is taking off,” researchers said in the healthcare-specific insights report. 

Healthcare IT departments are looking to leverage real-time data for patient care, making mobile and Internet of Things devices essential to health system operations. 

But, these devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks that present significant risks to health systems and providers.

In remote care, data is created and used often happening outside of traditional HIT environments – in homes, laboratories or in the field. Healthcare’s regulatory requirements also necessitate an endpoint strategy that prioritizes user experience, though secure data transfer may require intentional devices.

“Off-the-shelf consumer devices often fall short in terms of security requirements,” the researchers said, advising the combination of on-premises network and security to mitigate insider threats for the tele-emergency medical services use case.

Mobile devices account for 53% of the respondents’ devices, according to the report. Additionally, 74% of respondents said they use 4G/LTE cellular networks for edge connectivity. 

The researchers said the respondents’ top perceived threat is an insider threat, which highlights the importance of addressing internal vulnerabilities in edge computing environments.

“It is worth noting that 52% of the respondents are using a combined cybersecurity and networking function that is located on-premises,” researchers said. 

The researchers also looked at how healthcare IT leaders pursue new developments and offer some advice for preparing to secure these ecosystems:

  • Develop your edge computing profile. 
  • Develop an investment strategy.
  • Increase compliance capabilities. 
  • Align resources with emerging priorities. 
  • Build-in resilience and prepare for dynamic response. 

They say collaboration is key and engaging trusted advisors from internal and external sources must be a priority. 

While most respondents – 64% – rely on external expertise for project planning, 71% seek guidance from outside the organization during production, which the researchers say is a good thing. 

“Seeking external advice can streamline processes, save time and reduce costs, whether designing an access management approach, ensuring data integrity or selecting the appropriate tools for data movement and protection,” they said.

As far as costs, the hospital-at-home use case showed a lower percentage of spending on upfront strategy and planning with greater investment in the network segment, a spend that was typically twice as large. 

The report ends with advice on how to prepare the ecosystem: “Consider approaching edge computing with a layered mindset,” the researchers advised. 

“Take the time to ideate on various ‘what-if’ scenarios and anticipate potential challenges.”

The researchers’ insights were derived from the quantitative and qualitative research and analysis conducted for the full 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Edge Ecosystem, 


Previous reports have raised alarm bells about the drive to incorporate mobile and IoT devices to improve patient care. While these devices expand hospital attack surfaces, they are typically not protected, according to a report last year from Cynerio and The Ponemon Institute that indicated hospitals don’t have a handle on their IoT security

Only a small percentage of healthcare organizations reported a mature stage of security to protect these devices, the Insecurity of Connected Devices in HealthCare 2022 report said.

“It’s clear that cyberattackers have increasingly focused their efforts on hospitals since 2020,” said Chad Holmes, security evangelist at Cynerio


“Healthcare organizations can unlock the full potential of edge computing to deliver improved patient outcomes, operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness,” the researchers said.

“Organizations should consider a comprehensive and multi-layered approach to address the unique security challenges of each use case.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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