To say the healthcare system is complex would be an understatement. The sprawling digital infrastructure underpinning modern healthcare organizations consists of countless disparate technologies and databases, all governed by a dated regulatory framework.
Unfortunately, that complexity makes these organizations vulnerable, and it’s a big reason why researchers predict exponential growth in the volume of data breaches experienced by the industry in the coming years. The current shortage of cybersecurity workers, which continues to plague virtually every industry, will only compound matters.
So how can healthcare CISOs protect their organizations as attackers become more sophisticated?
It’s not an easy question, particularly as these leaders often face significant budget constraints and a relative lack of support at the board level. With teams that are understaffed and overworked, it’s no wonder that many CISOs succumb to professional burnout.
But even though the stress associated with the role might be unavoidable, there are steps that nearly all security leaders in the healthcare industry can take to enhance network security and reduce insomnia. Here are three of the most important ones:
- Embrace automation.The cybersecurity talent shortage makes adopting automated technologies a strategic imperative for modern healthcare organizations. Rather than replacing human healthcare workers, new tools have the potential to make existing staff — including those working in both clinical and administrative settings — far more productive and efficient. Moreover, they can automate key cybersecurity functions, allowing security teams to spend more time performing higher-impact work.
AI-based technologies can also give security professionals greater visibility into network operations, allowing them to act quickly when data threats emerge. By using automation to streamline workflows, facilitate greater collaboration and improve data transparency across networks, organizations have a better shot at staying ahead of constantly evolving cyberattacks.
- Document now (or cry later). Comprehensive documentation on security initiatives isn’t just a matter of ensuring compliance; it also allows existing and new staff to perform tasks associated with data security more efficiently and effectively. Automated technologies can also enhance this process, but it’s important that healthcare security teams foster cultures that promote ongoing and exhaustive documentation in virtually every context.
Unfortunately, when overworked and understaffed security teams are prioritizing tasks, documentation is often overlooked. But without understanding how the existing security state came to be, it’s almost impossible to plan effectively. Documentation that serves downstream needs (yes, including those of auditors) will help teams do more with less now — and in the future.
- Stay open-minded. While organizations in other industries are reaping the transformative benefits of cloud computing, the cloud has yet to be fully embraced in healthcare. Perceived security concerns are the most common barrier to cloud adoption, but they must be overcome if the industry is to keep evolving amid the talent shortage.
Cloud-based platforms offer built-in security mechanisms that actually make protecting data easier for teams used to working with on-premises systems. They also allow organizations to scale operations to serve more patients and to more easily engage with patients via the channels and devices they already use.
The “p” in HIPAA stands for portability. Platforms like Salesforce offer features that allow for the fast, secure transfer of data across functions and departments, making it accessible to those who need it precisely when it’s needed. Without the cloud, security teams must allocate more time and resources to integrating disparate on-premises systems and building the mechanisms and workflows that secure them — in effect, throwing valuable time and money at problems that have already been solved.
Cybersecurity workers were already outnumbered prior to the pandemic. Now that healthcare organizations (like those in almost every industry) have substantially increased their reliance on digital infrastructures, urgent solutions are needed. As long as the talent shortage persists, the prospect of simply hiring more personnel will be unrealistic. Instead, security teams must work fast to incorporate the technologies and processes that are already available or else risk falling further behind.
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