Can Computerized Medical Equipment Harm Patients?

Posted on June 08, 2016 by Shapiro Law Group


Computerized medical equipment can help doctors and other hospital staff diagnose patients, carry out surgeries and keep people alive. Software is often used to turn normal tablets and PCs into high-tech medical devices. However, these devices are only as good as the people using them, for now. We can use a recent example to discuss how computerized medical devices can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

A recent case involved an antivirus scan shutting down software used to monitor heart surgery. The software in question, Merge Hemo, supervises heart catheterization procedures, which are used to diagnose certain heart conditions. Merge Hemo works by running on a doctor’s computer or tablet, making it a device at risk for contracting malware. Due to this risk, it can be configured to run antivirus scans.

During a routine surgery, Merge Hemo shut down without warning. When surgeons booted the device back up, it had initiated an antivirus scan. Most of us get upset when antivirus scans interrupt presentations at work, but imagine it happening during heart surgery!

Computerized Medical Equipment Must Be Properly Configured

As we said earlier, medical devices and software are configured and used by people, meaning mistakes can happen. In this case, antivirus software turned on during surgery because it was not configured to work correctly with Merge Hemo. Simply installing antivirus software and not configuring it to work with other programs can lead to disaster. Antivirus programs have to be configured to work while machines are not being used by doctors.

Despite these risks, antivirus software provides a needed service. Computerized medical equipment can be compromised by hackers. Keep in mind, medical software often must run on existing tablets and computers, devices that have well-documented safety risks.

Poor network security can lead to hackers ransoming important medical files or taking over devices. However, as we have learned from today’s blog, even well-intended network security can have unexpected consequences.

The Tampa Bay medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro Law Group can hold negligent hospitals accountable for patient injuries.

Tags: PatientSafety


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