According to a Forescout study of IoT and medical device security, some of the most popular inclusions in the new, more interconnected system of healthcare have been infusion pumps, patient tracking tools, and imaging systems. And, unfortunately, despite many of these solutions being newly implemented, many of them still run on legacy software and hardware that are woefully outdated. In fact, returning to that Forescout study, close to 70% of devices being run at the facilities they surveyed were running on legacy windows software that had support cutoff by Microsoft in January of 2020. 

Of course, improving your facility’s efficiency and care programs is not as simple as just replacing all legacy pieces of hardware or deleting all software that’s no longer being supported. In many cases, these pieces of tech have been mainstay players in a facility’s infrastructure for years and — thanks to the highly interconnected nature of IoT medical devices — connect and communicate with a wide swath of different devices. Removing one of these connected devices no longer just impacts that one device, it has a cascading effect on every device connected to it. Suddenly, swapping out outdated tech doesn’t seem like such an obvious solution.

Thankfully, there is a solution. One that combines the power, security, and reliability of modern hardware while also allowing for seamless integration into legacy systems. That solution is medical grade computers customized to include legacy device-supporting RS232 ports.

Yesterday’s Familiar Tools With Today’s Reliability

The beauty of customizability is its ability to deliver today’s modern computer power while also providing the necessary ports for legacy device applications. A computer on wheels, for example, can be customized to include RS232 ports without having to compromise on other drivers of performance such as the computer’s processor and RAM. 

This can mean two things for you and your facility. Firstly, you aren’t compromising on the legacy tools you’ve come to be familiar with. And secondly, it also means these legacy practices can now be enhanced with computing power that likely wasn’t available on your older computers that were only sticking around because of those few ports you needed to keep legacy systems running

There are actually a few perfect examples and use cases we can delve into in order to better illustrate this fact.

X-ray Imaging

The Forescout study we mentioned above specifically highlighted the popularity of imaging peripherals in 2020 —explaining that while these devices were becoming increasingly more and more popular to bring into the fold, they were still running on legacy software so that they may play well with the rest of a given facility’s infrastructure. This holds especially true for X-Ray applications where several peripherals needed to perform the tasks are often outdated and no longer receive support. 

Thankfully, modern medical displays customized to include RS232 ports allow facilities to have a central hub computer for their X-ray solutions without having to upgrade all of their peripheral imaging equipment. Not only that, but because these medical computers are also designed with more powerful processors and specs than the average legacy-enabled PC, these X-ray solutions can even be sped up and made more efficient as a result! The door can now be opened for quicker scanning, higher resolution scans, and speedier transferring of data across departments and other facilities for better coordinated care.

In addition to these efficiency boosts, having a computer with RS232 ports that’s specifically designed to be medical grade lets you swap in a computer that’s more capable without jeopardizing your already established X-Ray solutions’ FDA compliance. This is because you’re simply only swapping out a single part of the infrastructure as opposed to updating entire wings of devices, each of which would need to have their replacements scouted for FDA compliance.

Anesthesia

Anesthesia is another wing of healthcare that is often riddled with many peripherals and specialized pieces of software, many of which are often outdated in order to better integrate into programs that were created years prior. Fortunately, we see many of the same benefits in anesthesia that we do in imaging when RS232 enabled medical computers enter the mix. In much the same way, a hub computer with RS232 ports can be swapped in without having to uproot entire systems of anesthesia peripherals and software.

What’s especially helpful in the case of medical grade computers used for anesthesia in specific is the fact that they’re built for the express purpose of being used inside the operating room.

Many times, computers and anesthesia solutions need to be deployed outside of the operating room since they can actually be spreaders of disease thanks to their fans that circulate harmful bacteria. Medical computers that are constructed by the right manufacturer , however, are built to be fanless, eliminating that risk while also being IP65 certified which allows for them to be disinfected without fear of liquid sanitizers damaging internal components. All this, coupled with IEC60601-1 certification means these legacy anesthesia solutions can now actually be wheeled into the operating room, allowing for more responsive, real-time reactions to patients during surgery. Again we see how these computers not only allow for legacy systems to be used, but allow for them to be used even more efficiently than before.

Improved Cybersecurity

Interconnected devices have been a simultaneous boon and bane for healthcare providers for quite some time. On one end, they provide better care and easier sharing of data and on the other end, they expand the attack surface for cybercriminals looking to steal valuable patient data. What’s worse is when we start to see how this affects legacy devices. Since these devices are often so outdated, they’ve long since stopped receiving software updates that would protect them in the case of a cyberattack. This makes legacy applications much more risky to include in an interconnected care program. Unfortunately, despite this increased risk, healthcare providers rely on these legacy devices to provide care wherever and whenever necessary. 

Modern medical computers with RS232 legacy ports provide some much needed protection for these legacy devices by allowing for the inclusion of more advanced, identity authenticating peripherals such as biometric scanners, CaC readers, RFID scanners, and more. With all of the authentication tools built into a device, facilities that choose to employ them can rest assured that only those who are supposed to receive access to this data do. Even better yet, a manufacturer that creates these computers with Imprivata single sign on authorized peripherals can also take advantage of SSO software that authenticates login credentials through off-site servers. 

Taking these modern protections and including them on devices that allow for legacy tool use helps facilities continue to use their familiar pieces of hardware and software while also simultaneously mitigating cybersecurity risks inherent in their use. 

Blending the Past with the Future

Healthcare has never been one for the philosophy of “out with the old, in with the new.” There are several instances where the use of older, legacy hardware and software simply provides better, more efficient care because of their familiarity and connectivity with an established network of devices. What incorporating more modern computers does is allow for those same tools to be employed while also helping patch holes in their convenience factor with more modern processing power, cybersecurity insurances, and more. For more information on how you can begin implementing these modern PCs into your own legacy programs, contact a professional from Cybernet’s team today.