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HHS Announces Next Steps in Ongoing Work to Enhance Cybersecurity for Health Care and Public Health Sectors

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a concept paper that outlines the Department’s cybersecurity strategy for the health care sector. The concept paper builds on the National Cybersecurity Strategy that President Biden released last year, focusing specifically on strengthening resilience for hospitals, patients, and communities threatened by cyber-attacks. The paper details four pillars for action, including publishing new voluntary health care-specific cybersecurity performance goals, working with Congress to develop supports and incentives for domestic hospitals to improve cybersecurity, and increasing accountability and coordination within the health care sector.

According to the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), cyber incidents in health care are on the rise. From 2018-2022, there has been a 93% increase in large breaches reported to OCR (369 to 712), with a 278% increase in large breaches involving ransomware. Cyber incidents affecting hospitals and health systems have led to extended care disruptions, patient diversions to other facilities, and delayed medical procedures, all putting patient safety at risk.

“The health care sector is experiencing a significant rise in cyberattacks, putting patient safety at risk. These attacks expose vulnerabilities in our health care system, degrade patient trust, and ultimately endanger patient safety,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. “HHS takes these threats very seriously, and we are taking steps that will ensure our hospitals, patients, and communities impacted by cyberattacks are better prepared and more secure.”

The HHS concept paper outlines the following actions:

  • Publish voluntary Health care and Public Health sector Cybersecurity Performance Goals (HPH CPGs). HHS will release HPH CPGs to help health care institutions plan and prioritize implementation of high-impact cybersecurity practices.
  • Provide resources to incentivize and implement cybersecurity practices. HHS will work with Congress to obtain new authority and funding to administer financial support and incentives for domestic hospitals to implement high-impact cybersecurity practices.
  • Implement an HHS-wide strategy to support greater enforcement and accountability. HHS will propose new enforceable cybersecurity standards, informed by the HPH CPGs, that would be incorporated into existing programs, including Medicare and Medicaid and the HIPAA Security Rule.
  • Expand and mature the one-stop shop within HHS for healthcare sector cybersecurity. HHS will mature the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR) coordination role as a “one-stop shop” for health care cybersecurity which will improve coordination within HHS and the Federal Government, deepen HHS and the Federal government’s partnership with industry, improve access and uptake of government support and services, and increase HHS’s incident response capabilities.

Read the full press release from HHS here.

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