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Shawn Tuma Discusses the Dangers, Impacts of a Cyberattack on Health Care Systems


Shawn Tuma, JD, CIPP/US, cybersecurity and data privacy attorney, Spencer Fane LLP, highlights the biggest threats concerning a cyberattack on oncology practices.

Cybersecurity is the greatest risk that health care organizations face, says Shawn Tuma, JD, CIPP/US, cybersecurity and data privacy attorney, Spencer Fane LLP.


As a panelist for the discussion, “Guardians of Confidentiality: Navigating Cybersecurity & Data Privacy in Oncology,” can you address the dangers of cybersecurity breaches in the medical industry and how they may have a negative impact on patients, payers, and care teams?

Yes, so that was a very fun panel to be on. Dennis [Zoet, chief business development officer, The Cancer & Hematology Centers,] and Alti [Rahman, MHA/MBA, CSSBB, chief strategy and innovation officer, American Oncology Network,] were amazing and hearing their stories was fabulous. In hindsight, we picked the topic and the title for the panel many months ago, “Guardians of Confidentiality,” because our focus was on protecting confidentiality, the privacy of patient data, which in the past has typically been the main focus. But given the recent events in the news, we could have probably changed it to “Confidentiality and Operational Capabilities of the Practice,” because what we've learned over the last several weeks, which is something I've been saying for many years, is that cyber is the greatest risk that health care organizations face, period.

It is the greatest risk with the greatest impact that right now, today, everything can be going smooth, and your operation is running and the practice going just as you want it to. And in the blink of an eye, one click of a button, everything can be stopped and shut down, sometimes irrevocably and permanently. What we've seen over the last few weeks is it's not just an attack on your practice that can shut you down, but also an attack on what I would call an MVP, most valuable partner, of yours in the supply chain, such as we've now seen with Change Healthcare. So, cyber is the greatest risk in my view that health care organizations face, period.

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