Medical Equipment

About Interference from other electronics on Medical Equipment

– Excerpted from An Electronic Silent Spring

Medical equipment – including fetal monitors used in hospitals and cardiac pacemakers as well as sensitive, personal medical information–has become vulnerable to hackers. Increasingly, computer viruses and “malware” infect computers that view X-rays and CT scans; they can cause equipment to slow down or shut off. In 2010 and 2011, several hospitals temporarily closed their cardiac catheterization labs (which widen blocked arteries), because of infected devices. (1)

According to John Halamka, chief information officer of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, on a typical day, the hospital runs about 15,000 devices on its computer network. About 500 of these devices use older operating systems that are especially susceptible to malware infections beyond the hospital’s direct control. (2)

In August, 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that defibrillators and insulin pumps are vulnerable to hacks.

To access hospital computers that hold patient records, physicians need to enter their password at various computers, sometimes hourly. When a nurse keeps a doctor “logged in” and when computers are left unattended, sensitive medical information becomes vulnerable. (3)

Medical equipment may also interfere with health problems. (See Katherine J. Lee’s and Emma Gunn’s stories).

2. and 3. ibid.