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Tuesday June 6, 2023  |  Michael Johnson, Chief Information Security Officer

Addressing Cybersecurity in Rural Healthcare

Limited budgets and leaner staff mean the ongoing healthcare cybersecurity crisis poses a unique risk for rural providers.

While any cyberattack on healthcare infrastructure has the potential to disrupt care and negatively impact patient outcomes, these events pose a significant risk for rural populations. In these areas, the nearest alternative hospital might be hours away, meaning system downtime resulting from a cyberattack may have life-threatening implications.

Recognizing the urgent need to address this vulnerability in America’s health system, US Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) recently introduced the Rural Hospital Cybersecurity Enhancement Act. This bill aims to improve cybersecurity in rural healthcare facilities by encouraging strategies for improved safeguards and allocating resources for providers.

However, there’s no guarantee this legislation will make it through the chambers or that it will be sufficient to address current security challenges. Therefore, while a response gets ironed out on Capitol Hill, rural and community healthcare leaders should consider taking certain actions now to safeguard their data assets and communities in the face of this growing threat.

In this blog, we will explore the importance of working with an information security (infosec) partner to strengthen cybersecurity defenses and discuss how MEDTEAM Information Security Services can help fill workforce gaps and protect against malicious actors.

The Rural Cybersecurity Problem

Unlike their metropolitan counterparts, rural hospitals don’t have the resources or applicant pool to attract cybersecurity professionals amid a shortage of qualified candidates. Limited budgets and difficulties in obtaining insurance policies further compound the issue. And though the Rural Hospital Cybersecurity Enhancement Act recognizes these issues and proposes solutions to address them, outsourcing cybersecurity governance to a dedicated third party may be the best solution currently available to many providers.

Replacing Fear with Familiarity: Harnessing Information Security Partnerships

The blueprint for robust cybersecurity infrastructure includes a mix of tools, best practices, and partnerships that form a cohesive whole. Collaborating with an experienced information security partner can provide the specialized training, technology, and resources necessary to help rural and community organizations achieve this goal.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

Risk Assessments

A seasoned information security leader should be able to conduct thorough assessments to identify vulnerabilities and develop tailored strategies to address them. Findings must then be prioritized and reviewed with the client. Finally, a strategy to improve security can be documented, allowing facilities to prioritize their funding for maximum impact.

This proactive approach ensures that hospitals stay one step ahead of threat actors.

Security Infrastructure Development

A cybersecurity team must have the skills to design and implement complex security infrastructure to protect both on-premises and cloud resources, as well as customize service offerings to match organization-specific needs. These efforts can include setting up firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption.

Strong Governance

While a security review is a one-time assessment, a virtual CISO (vCISO) provides your organization with a dedicated resource to remain engaged in addressing ongoing security concerns. This service usually provides analysis, coaching, and expertise in reducing risks identified in a security review.

Rapid Response

In the event that a cybersecurity incident does occur, infosec partners have the resources to rapidly contain a breach, conduct an investigation, and restore critical systems. By contrast, relying on the limited capabilities of a traditional IT team, or seeking assistance after the fact, can result in prolonged downtime for patients and clinicians.

MEDTEAM Information Security Services

As rural hospitals continue to grapple with workforce gaps and limited resources, MEDTEAM offers a valuable solution. Our Information Security Services can provide expertise in identifying risks before a threat actor can exploit them. We can perform a one-time cost-effective analysis and/or remain engaged as a long-term partner.

By investing in cybersecurity and leveraging specialized expertise, rural hospitals can safeguard patient information, ensure continuity of care, and contribute to a stronger healthcare ecosystem.

To learn more about how we can help reduce risks, improved care quality, and lower costs, contact us at or dial 1.800.383.6278.

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