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GRC Solutions for Healthcare CISO Challenges

Author: Mark Caruso


One of the most challenging responsibilities of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is managing organizational risks. This is especially difficult in healthcare industries, where regulations change frequently and new technology emerges rapidly.

Without the necessary tools to track and manage security factors, protocols, and procedures, CISOs are left to determine necessary measures based off manual risk assessments and organization strategies—which can often be disorganized, outdated, and time-consuming. Further complicating matters, CISOs often struggle to effectively report these risks to boards and obtain the necessary funding to ensure a well-developed security strategy.

Relying on haphazard methods of risk management can lead to preventable risk. However, these challenges can be easily mitigated with a Governance, Risk, and Compliance tool (GRC). As a former CISO for many hospitals and healthcare institutions, this would have helped me tremendously in my efforts to manage risk.

During my time as a CISO in the healthcare industry, IT security, vendor management, and business continuity management were some of the top systems that fell victim to the most gaps in their programs. Providing a wealth of information related to risk, cost of remediation, and reputational loss, a GRC tool could help alleviate these gaps, and can help CISOs create a strong top-to-bottom security and compliance culture (a feat that’s extremely difficult to achieve manually). A GRC is a tool no CISO should forego. By educating the organization on risk, remediating threats, and helping provide the highest level of protection to the organization, its value is immeasurable.

Information Technology Security Gaps

I’ve seen widespread IT security concerns that could be fully addressed by the presence of a GRC tool. When you don’t have a comprehensive tool to automate, manage, and consolidate your data, keeping track of your extensive information is nearly impossible.

Inadequate Risk Assessments

Thoroughly identifying risk is crucial to solidifying correction and prevention plans, leading to an overall improved IT security posture. In hospitals, unidentified risks that fall through the cracks can have detrimental consequences. You need to understand your current stature—what risks you have, the severity of those risks, and what gaps are present.

A GRC solution consolidates all IT security data, giving you full visibility into the threats and gaps impacting your security plans.

Incomplete System Inventory

Hospitals have thousands of systems (medical devices, vendors, and information systems) that must be catalogued to determine security protocols around each. But many are often overlooked and not listed in the critical inventory. Without a designated platform to consolidate, update, and manage all of your information, assets can be easily forgotten, opening your business to threats you didn’t even know were there.

Widespread Adherence to Policies & Procedures

I’ve seen hospitals expend copious amounts of effort crafting effective policies and procedures—only to leave them on the shelf to collect dust. When manually compiled and stored on a system not intended for widespread distribution across the organization, hospitals sometimes found it harder to circulate plans to the necessary parties to ensure adherence. Furthermore, when regulations changed (which they often do in the healthcare industry), these policies weren’t taken down and amended to comply with the regulations, which led to compliance issues.

A GRC platform can not only alert you to these changes, but also makes it easy to update the affected policies and procedures to align with regulations.

Training

Adequate employee training helps ensure that set procedures, regulations, and policies are followed. Oftentimes, if hospitals don’t have a holistic view of their IT infrastructure, they’ll be unable to set up effective training initiatives. Employees without proper training have a higher risk of human error—which causes 22% of breaches in cybersecurity according to the 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR).

GRC tools allow you to quickly and effectively administer policies organization wide. They also give you fast access to consolidated information to see a holistic view of your organization, letting you create accurate training programs to teach employees proper procedures.

Governance

If you’re haphazardly managing your IT security, then you don’t have a good way to solidify control over your risks and systems. With a dashboard view of your systems, risks, and gaps, you’ll be able to create a more accurate diagnosis of risks that can affect your organization and your controls.

Comprehensively analyze your IT security framework with a GRC tool that gives you a full view of your current technologies, present gaps, and inadequate processes based on outdated regulatory standards. With a more consolidated view, CISOs can easily identify, manage, and reduce the risk of cyber threats and malicious attacks.

Third-Party Gaps

In my experience, hospitals usually get about 80% of their products and services from outside vendors. Without a platform to list and add vendors, it can be easy to lose track of them. In many cases, hospitals with manual vendor management systems don’t have an accurate, updated list of their vendors and the associated contracts, services, and risks.

A GRC tool would allow you to oversee all third-party information and easily access, review, and edit this data on one centralized platform. You’ll also be able to prioritize vendor issues and witness exactly where adjustments need to be made. Seeing what works and what doesn’t, you’ll have valuable insight on specific successes or pain points in your vendor relationships—allowing you to make future decisions on whether you want to continue with a certain company, or employ a new one to fulfill your needs.

Business Continuity Planning

Although hospitals usually have good emergency preparedness plans, disasters that have longer lasting impacts (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) can leave some of them scrambling to adapt. Or, if hospitals do have these scenarios as part of their business continuity plans, they fail to conduct enough tabletop exercises or tests that gauge the plan’s effectiveness.

With GRC software, you can easily analyze enterprise-wide operational risks and gaps, prioritize recovery responsibilities, and manage updates in one convenient location. Drawing on available business impact analyses, risk assessments, plan developments, and procedure documentation, you’ll be able to more easily construct an effective program.

Relying on disorganized, manual solutions can be detrimental to your operations. Engaging a comprehensive solution like a GRC tool will streamline your business continuity plans, align disaster recovery strategies, and enable quick responses to potential interruptions.

Getting the Board on Board

The biggest challenge for a CISO is finding how to communicate risk in a way that everyone on the board and executive management understands. In many situations, I’ve seen boards look at risk management in the way that they look at insurance: seeing the risks presented and believing that they’ll never actually need the mitigation strategies outlined. By aggregating data from many sources across your organization, a GRC gives CISOs a concise way to convey the severity of risks in layperson’s terms, which creates a higher possibility of the board recognizing the importance of the strategies needed, and increases the chance of them giving the CISO the required funding to create effective remediation procedures.

With robust reporting capabilities, you can effectively present which risks pose the highest threat to your company, and which resources need the most attention. You’ll be able to accurately portray the inherent risks in your company, and explain the proactive procedures needed to diminish the impact of these threats. With timely data, organized spreadsheets, and comprehensive risk statements, it’s easy to consolidate all of the factors of your organization’s risk to build customized reports that the board will understand.

Conclusion

Establishing risk management programs for hospitals is no small achievement. During my previous engagements, the presence of a GRC tool (like WolfPAC Integrated Risk Management®) would have remarkably enhanced the quality of risk programs while lessening the time and hassle of creating them. The healthcare industry is riddled with external uncertainties, and trying to lasso everything manually is difficult and can lead to fatal gaps.

A GRC solution offers a centralized inventory to analyze and update your data, letting you quickly and efficiently determine response strategies, monitor risk activity, and control negative impacts. CISOs have a hard enough job already—let the extensive visibility of this tool propel your risk initiatives forward to build a stable foundation for maximum protection.