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October 10, 2017

Cybersecurity—A Serious Patient Care Concern

Author Affiliations
  • 1Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, New York
  • 2Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, Hempstead, New York
JAMA. 2017;318(14):1319-1320. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11986

The world of paper medical records has almost disappeared, ushering in a new era of electronically stored, analyzed, and shared medical information that offers exciting opportunities for improved patient care. However, this major shift in information management has introduced unintended and unfavorable consequences, such as theft of patient-protected health information, wide-scale sequestering of medical records by ransomware (malicious software—malware—that permanently blocks the access to records unless a ransom is paid), and the ability for hackers to directly harm patients. For example, the recent global WannaCry ransomware attack resulted in more than 48 National Health Service organizations in the United Kingdom being forced to cancel surgical procedures and outpatient appointments. This virus also affected several intravenous contrast power injectors in the United States.1 In addition to health care organizations, more than 230 000 computers in 150 countries were infected.