Medical Second Opinions In The Digital Age: When A Tumor Isn’t A Tumor

By Brian J. Lamoureux, & May 17, 2019Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity researchers have recently created a computer virus that was able to trick three radiologists into thinking their patients had cancer. The researchers were also able to fool automated screening systems by altering images and scans to place fake “tumors” on them, or by removing real tumors from actual scans which showed advanced disease. These images and scans were vulnerable because they were not digitally signed or encrypted. The researchers also found that while hospitals have done a good job in preventing the spread of confidential patient information outside their facilities, they have not done as well in handling data internally with care. This has left hospitals and other medical facilities vulnerable to intrusions by malware and other viruses that could wreak havoc on patients’ sensitive medical data.

Although it’s too early to tell what impact these vulnerabilities will have on patient care, it should be alarming to all of us on several levels. First, interpreting radiological scans requires a high level of skill and judgment in what is already a complex and nuanced process. If a patient or radiologist cannot trust the integrity of the data underlying a particular scan or image, then certainly any conclusions reached on it will be viewed with some level of skepticism. Second, as more people learn that malware and viruses can make it look like a patient has a tumor or cancer when he or she is perfectly healthy, we should expect a sharp increase in the number of patients seeking a second opinion or additional scans or tests because they do not trust the initial scan or interpretation, perhaps out of an understandable sense of grief or denial. This will cause increasing burdens and costs on an already over-burdened and expensive health care system.

Finally, we should expect to see more and more hospitals threatened by ransomware and cybercriminals who demand payment in exchange for not corrupting the hospital’s radiological system. Given the stakes in play – life, death, and potentially unnecessary treatment – hospitals and other medical providers would be well-advised to plan to prevent and address these new cyberthreats in the medical landscape. For further information, please contact Attorney Brian J. Lamoureux at bjl@pldolaw.com or 401-824-5155.

 

 

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Brian J. Lamoureux is a Partner with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC and a member of the Employment Law, Cyber Law, Litigation and Corporate & Business Teams. He is also Practitioner Faculty in Management (Business Law) at Providence College, his alma mater.

His extensive practice areas include complex commercial litigation, employment law, construction law, social media law, and creditors' rights. In addition to being an accomplished business litigator, he has developed into a nationally-recognized voice on cutting-edge legal issues relating to social media. He is a frequent presenter, published author, and broadcast commentator on the topic and regularly appears on WPRI-TV, NBC10 and NECN-TV, the nation's largest 24-hour regional news network. His recent newspaper columns and articles include Social Media Privacy Law Impacts EmployersShould Employees Use Facebook at Work?Privacy Rights Being Tested in the Digital AgeDigital Age Hiring Process Filled With DangerTexting in the Workplace? Dangers Abound, Email Privacy Not a Guarantee in Workplace, and Worry About Workplace Prejudice? Clean Up. Mr. Lamoureux's work has also been published in the Providence Business News and Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

He successfully briefed and argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in a case confirming surety's rights to indemnification. He was lead counsel in a successfully resolved certified class action regarding the demutualization of an insurance company before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island, and served as trial co-counsel in one of the largest defense jury verdicts in the Federal District Court in Massachusetts.

Mr. Lamoureux has been honored for his achievements by the Providence Business News and was selected as a member of its 2011 Class of "40 Under Forty."

He earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from the Syracuse University College of Law, where he was a member of the Syracuse Law Review and Moot Court Honor Society. At the same time, he received a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island, where he was a teaching assistant in American Government and International Relations, and a B.A. in Political Science, cum laude, from Providence College.

Prior to joining PLDO, Mr. Lamoureux was a litigation partner in a large international AMLaw 200 firm. He is admitted to practice in state and federal courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and is qualified to serve as a receiver in Rhode Island Superior Court. Mr. Lamoureux is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. To reach Attorney Lamoureux, please call 401-824-5100 or email bjl@pldolaw.com.

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