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The role of cyber-security in the digitisation of Britain’s NHS

Cyber security is a hot topic across most industries in the UK at present. As the NHS has begun its quest for digitisation, it raises the question as to the relationship between cyber security and patient care.

As we know, the threats of cyber attacks are rising, as cyber gangs across the globe are searching for vulnerabilities in systems within major sectors, to exploit for their advantage. This is evident in the case of the May 2017 ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack on NHS IT systems, underlining the importance of taking steps along the path to digitisation to ensure that information is kept safe and secure.

The importance of cyber security within the NHS

The cyber security ‘push’ is key to the NHS' wider digitalisation efforts, which should result in a better all-round standard of patient care and satisfaction. This includes the implementation of free WiFi across the entire NHS estate in England, to be installed into all primary and secondary care units by the end of 2019. This move towards a digital NHS has considerable benefits for both patients and staff, and is central to the Government’s commitment to making all patient and care records digital, real-time and interoperable by 2020.

However, central to the success of these digitisation efforts will be the prevention of successful cyber attacks, which will eliminate disruption to medical services and improve patient trust in the ability to securely store information, and in turn leading to the ability to use data to improve health outcomes. To do this, the NHS must ensure that all staff are prepared and have a clear plan for what to do if a cyber attack were to hit. The path to a digital NHS provides the perfect opportunity for training in cyber security and digitalisation.

It is clear that the digitisation of Britain’s national health service can reap considerable benefits in a move towards an improved health and care system for both NHS patients and staff. The capacity to procure these benefits, to save money and to improve patient care through advanced digital processes is determined by the ability of the NHS to leverage efficient cyber defense against cyber threats. It is only when this occurs, and the NHS has maintained trust that they will be able to effectively capitalise on its exponential data growth, and achieve the end goal of successful digitalisation.

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