Six Essential Risk Management Tools in Healthcare Cybersecurity

The healthcare industry is experiencing a long-overdue digital revolution. 74% of American patients used telehealth in 2023, while the size and value of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is projected to grow nearly 600% by 2032. But this rapid transformation presents a challenge for cybersecurity leaders. 

More interconnected digital devices and complex supply chains create a larger attack surface for cybercriminals. This leaves more room for hidden vulnerabilities which can spell disaster for healthcare organizations. 

That is why risk assessments are essential to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture. But which solutions should you use to undertake those assessments? And how can you attain the capabilities you need without overloading your teams with dozens of new tools to learn? 

The following blog answers those questions and helps you choose the best tools to cover all bases. 

What is Risk Assessment in Healthcare Cybersecurity? 

A risk assessment is the process of identifying, measuring, and prioritizing vulnerabilities within your IT systems. It is the cybersecurity equivalent of a rigorous health check, where a doctor tests and inspects everything from cholesterol levels to mobility – enabling them to determine whether further medical attention is required. 

A cybersecurity risk assessment ultimately produces three things: 

  1. Clarity: A clear indication of your organization’s general security posture 
  2. Vulnerabilities: A map of your systems’ security weaknesses and areas most likely to be targeted by cybercriminals 
  3. Priorities: An understanding of the relative likelihood and expected costs of an attack, enabling you to focus on remediating the most urgent risks 

Why is Risk Assessment Important in Healthcare? 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security rule requires covered entities and business associates to conduct an annual security risk assessment (SRA). But the value of risk assessments extends far beyond compliance for two fundamental reasons: 

1. High Cybersecurity Risk 

Healthcare is among the most common targets for cyberattacks. 88% of organizations experience at least one attack per year, with a 264% increase in randsomware attacks since 2019 and the average cost of the most expensive breaches increasing 13% between 2022-23. Worse still, these breaches harm the reputation of an organization, which is likely to harm long-term patient retention and acquisition. 

Risk assessments are key to a proactive cybersecurity approach. As attack strategies adapt to evolving digital ecosystems, frequent risk assessments are the only reliable way to stay ahead of cybercriminals and avoid harming your patients, reputation, and bottom line. 

2. Leadership Complacency 

Healthcare executives are increasingly aware of the potential cost of cybersecurity breaches, but this has not yet translated into sufficient action. A recent survey revealed discrepancies between board members’ awareness of threats and their organization’s actual security posture: while 73% of board members say cybersecurity is a priority, 53% of organizations say they are not capable of coping with an attack in the next 12 months. 

Risk assessments help break leadership out of their complacency for two reasons: 

  • They quantify the true level of risk an organization faces – which helps burst the “that will never happen to us” bubble.  
  • They help produce clear, actionable steps the IT and security teams can take to remediate threats.  

Ultimately, this makes the benefits of healthcare risk assessments difficult to ignore – as long as you can find the right tools to make the process swift, accurate, and comprehensive. 

Six Risk Assessment Tools Every Healthcare Entity Should Use 

1. Workforce Training System 

Why it matters 

Studies find that 74% of cybersecurity breaches involve human error. Healthcare personnel are required to understand phishing tactics and HIPAA regulations whenever they are handling personal data, but 24% have never had cybersecurity awareness training. 

What kind of tool do you need? 

The ideal workforce training tool delivers on three key fronts: 

  • Engagement: Training should be interactive and flexible to ensure employees pay attention and absorb vital information. 
  • Measurement: The tool should measure learning outcomes so you can assess workforce risk and determine how much time and resources will be required to bring your teams up to speed on cybersecurity best practices. 
  • Applicability: Education should be mapped directly onto specific regulations like HIPAA and NIST to ensure everything employees learn is directly relevant to their daily tasks.

2. HIPAA SRA Software 

Why it matters 

HIPAA requires healthcare entities to report annually on their security and privacy risks, but they are often complex and time consuming for overworked teams. This creates problems for different sizes of organization: 

  • Small hospitals lack expertise: Assessments are often undertaken by a single individual without training. This is a big time-suck for the individual, but it also increases the likelihood of errors within the assessment. 
  • Enterprise organizations lack scalability: With multiple complex entities that must all complete an assessment, SRAs become highly inefficient and resource-intensive. 

What kind of tool do you need? 

Organizations should look for a HIPAA SRA tool that will: 

  • Provide detailed guidance: Walk users through each element of the SRA to accelerate the process and ensure all requirements are met. 
  • Document the process: Create a centralized source for all relevant regulatory reporting and documentation of SRAs to make submitting your assessment and proving compliance easier. 
  • Streamline the process: Automate repetitive tasks to simplify the SRA and save time. A perfect example is parent-child features, which enable enterprise organizations to complete a single assessment and then apply the same answers to other sub-entities wherever appropriate.

Cybersecurity checklist

3. Third-Party Risk Management Software 

Why it matters 

90% of the most significant security breaches are tied to third-party vendors, but assessing 100s of vendors’ security posture is a huge lift. In fact, a recent survey found that 50% of healthcare organizations are “dissatisfied” with their ability to keep pace with the volume of vendor assessments. 

What kind of tool do you need? 

There are two core challenges for third-party vendor assessments:  

  • Fragmented vendor networks that make it difficult to gain an accurate view of third-party risk. 
  • Communication silos that make it hard to ensure vendors submit cybersecurity information when asked. 

The ideal tool will therefore centralize data gathering and analysis and enable seamless communication to help vendors assess and remediate vulnerabilities. This has proven to help healthcare organizations complete assessments 3x faster, as well as making it easier to ensure third-party risk management (TPRM) is an “always on” process. 

4. NIST Assessment Software 

Why it matters 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a cybersecurity framework which helps identify process and technology gaps that create security vulnerabilities. This is considered the gold standard for healthcare organizations. In fact, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) issued its own cybersecurity guide (the 405(d) Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP) Guide), it did so in alignment with the NIST framework. 

What kind of tool do you need? 

NIST assessments can be complex and time-consuming, especially when undertaken manually. This leads many organizations to deem NIST too difficult or expensive – especially given that it is not a legal requirement. 

However, the right tool can streamline the process and automate manual tasks to make NIST assessments faster and easier – even across highly complex organizations. They make it easy to assign questionnaires to delegates; centralise and analyze all responses; and understand your organization’s level of cybersecurity maturity.  

5. Cybersecurity Preparedness Tests  

Why it matters 

The best way to assess how your organization would respond to a real cyberattack is to simulate one. These are known as a “cybersecurity preparedness tests”, and they are highly effective tools for uncovering hidden vulnerabilities. The results can also be published to demonstrate your organization’s dedication to protecting patient data. 

What kind of service do you need? 

Cybersecurity preparedness tests require a team of experts that can plan and undertake various exercises, such as penetration tests, phishing exercises and vulnerabilities scanning. However, it is important to note that this should not just be a team of cybersecurity experts – they must also have intimate knowledge of the healthcare industry and understand how your specific organization operates. 

6. Business Impact Analysis 

Why it matters 

Healthcare organizations need to understand exactly how a breach will impact their business. This includes factors such as: 

  • Expected length of system outages 
  • Expected financial cost of a breach 
  • Expected impact on patients and third parties 

These factors help you prioritize vulnerabilities based not just on the likelihood of an attack, but also on how severe its consequences will be.  

What kind of service do you need? 

Like preparedness tests, business impact analysis (BIA) generally requires external expertise. These should be run in-line with recognized frameworks, such as NIST Special Publication 800-34 

Cover All Bases with Integrated Risk Management 

While it is possible to source tools for each of the above, doing so can create unnecessary complexity. Not only is it a bigger lift from a due diligence perspective – it runs the risk of creating data silos. 

A better approach is integrated risk management (IRM), which centralizes all these assessments, unlocks a single view of your vulnerabilities, and allows you to prioritize remediation efforts and track progress with ease. 

The result? Assessments are faster and more efficient, remediation is smoother, and you can far more easily understand how your organization can meet the recently introduced cybersecurity performance goals (CPGs). Want to explore Intraprise Health’s best-in-class IRM solution?

Book a Demo.

About the Author
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Scott Mattila, CSO, Intraprise Health

Scott Mattila is the Chief Security Officer at Intraprise Health. He has held leadership positions at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions, and is currently an adjunct professor and serves on the Dean's advisory board at Duquesne University's Rangos School of Health Science.