Protecting computers as important as doctors washing their hands, Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor says

Protecting computers from hackers is as crucial as doctors washing their hands in a hospital, Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor in the UK has said.

Stuart Aston told a summit of healthcare professionals that all companies need to understand cyber threats and respond to them better in order to keep staff safe and operations running smoothly.

He urged IT experts across the country to adopt a three-point plan of “protect, detect and respond”.

“Understand attack scenarios and you will better defend against them,” Aston told the event at Microsoft’s London office. “You need to adopt a holistic approach to cybersecurity. The truth is, most people don’t have a plan to deal with a cyber-attack, They don’t look for threat indicators.”

Senior staff and their IT departments need to work together to highlight and focus on what they want to protect from potential hackers

Senior staff and their IT departments need to work together to highlight and focus on what they want to protect from potential hackers

Senior staff and their IT departments need to work together to highlight and focus on what they want to protect from potential hackers – data, devices or users – as the responsibility of keeping organisations safe cannot fall to the entire workforce, Aston said.

“You can’t blame the end-user, you need to put systems in place to help everyone stay safe.”

Part of that solution, Aston said, is ensuring IT systems are patched and updated regularly. “Modern software is more secure, we now have 20 years of experience to put into new programs,” he added, pointing to Windows 10 features such as facial recognition software Windows Hello, phishing protector SmartScreen and malware blocker Defender.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

The summit also featured talks from healthcare professionals and Microsoft healthcare leaders on how cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as other technology, can help healthcare in the 21st century.

Joanna Smith, Chief Information Officer at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said that after moving most of her operations to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, she would never spend public money on new on-premise servers.

“We have refocused our IT resources on supporting healthcare processes and solutions instead of supporting infrastructure. Cloud computing and Skype have been integral to productivity and our digital transformation. It’s changing how we engage with patients and how we run operating theatres,” she said.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has scanned and uploaded 40 million bits of paper to Microsoft’s cloud

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has scanned and uploaded 40 million bits of paper to Microsoft’s cloud

The trust, the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe, has scanned and uploaded 40 million bits of paper to Microsoft’s cloud, and cut the number of physical servers it runs by 50%.

“It’s good for the organisation and good for IT staff, as it gives them opportunities. I tell workers worried about technology taking their jobs that if they don’t embrace this tech they are doing themselves out of a job.”

James Paget University Hospital provides care to 230,000 people in Great Yarmouth and employs 3,000 staff. Michael Brooks, a doctor at the trust, has developed a program that quickly and easily stores patient information. PatientSource (below) can be used on a tablet device, so doctors taking care of patients on a ward can look at medicine intake, X-rays, blood pressure, test results and more while they are completing their rounds.

As it’s a digital solution, it also means that it doesn’t matter how bad doctors’ handwriting is.

“There are often problems when someone’s handwriting is bad, as written documents are the main source of hospital communication,” Brooks   said. “Paper is not good for collaboration, many people are trying to look at the same notes, you can’t rapidly search through a stack of documents and there is the potential for errors if you’re basing your judgment on numbers.

“In my experience, around 15% of the time medical professionals can’t find or read paper notes that doctors have made about a patient, that’s 108 hours a month. With PatientSource that time has been cut to 0.004%, or just two minutes a month.”

PatientSource, which runs on Azure, has a clinical notes mode, so everyone can read what has been written. Doctors can also create sketches of patients’ medical issues using their finger or a digital pen, and the program also has body diagrams preloaded, so users can drag and drop a picture of the lungs and mark key points on it. Doctors can also securely upload images of medical conditions, which they can compare as time passes to see if the patient is improving.

Other highlights of the event included:

  • VitruCare (above) – a secure digital health services platform that presents patients, their families and carers with a way to connect them with their healthcare team. The services are selected from a library and “prescribed” for them by their clinical teams, so are personalised to maximise patient engagement.
  • Kensci – using predictive analytics to transform healthcare and care delivery. Data insights predict future health and wellbeing needs as well as disease progression, and are allowing Accountable Care Organisations to cut costs, and improve patient experiences and clinical outcomes.

Putting patients in control of their own healthcare was also being adopted at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, in Liverpool.

Dr Rafael Guerrero is a Consultant Congenital Cardiac Surgeon  at the hospital, which cares for more than 270,000 children, young people and their families every year. He has seen the benefits of remote healthcare first-hand.

“Travelling to a hospital for a consultation can be bad for patients, who have to get their kids ready and pets sorted, they have to get time off work and suffer the stress of parking. The doctor could also be running late. All that for a 10-minute consultation.

“Phone consultations can be limiting, though, as we need to see children in their own environment, interacting with their parents.

“This is where Skype comes in.”

Learn more about Microsoft Health

In February, Microsoft launched Healthcare Next, a new initiative to integrate research and health technology product development, as well as establish a new model for partnerships in the sector. As part of this, Skype is helping clinicians collaborate with each other and their patients.

HealthVault Insights encourages patient engagement using machine learning, while chatbot technology enables partners to build AI-powered conversational tools.

One of the other areas that was covered was genomics. Microsoft is helping to making the gene sampling process simpler thanks to data growth and cloud computing.

Suzy Foster, Director of Health and Life Science at Microsoft, told the summit that Healthcare Next  is continually evolving to help provide medical professionals with the best tools.

One of the most cutting-edge programs has been InnerEye (above), an image analysis project from Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help radiographers monitor the progression of tumours.

Rajesh Jena, a Radiologist in the Department of Oncology at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust, said the program has cut the time it takes to highlight tumours from around 90 minutes to just five minutes.

“The tools at the moment are quite basic, as we use a mouse to draw around tumours,” he said. “Now, we can see the extent of the cancer as well as the healthy tissue, plus it gives me time back to see patients .”