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vCISO: Empowering Healthcare Organizations Against Cyber Threats

PatientLock Blog

In the fast-paced digital landscape of the healthcare industry, the increased use of technology has led to unprecedented security challenges for healthcare organizations. Recent breach statistics and increased threat levels highlight the need for strong and strategic cybersecurity leadership for all healthcare organizations. However, hiring a full-time Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) may not always be feasible or necessary. Instead, consider the significant advantages that a Virtual CISO (vCISO) can offer your healthcare organization in navigating the complex cyber threat landscape.


The role of a CISO demands a unique blend of technical expertise and business acumen. Defining and overseeing security policies, processes, and infrastructure, while effectively communicating the organization’s cybersecurity program at the executive level, is paramount. Unfortunately, the demand for experienced CISOs outstrips the available talent pool, often resulting in high costs associated with hiring full-time CISOs.


Outsourcing this role to a vCISO provides healthcare organizations with a practical and cost-effective solution to access essential cybersecurity leadership and guidance. These contracted experts bring a wealth of experience that might otherwise be unattainable for many healthcare organizations.


Like their full-time counterparts, vCISOs apply their insights to shape a robust cybersecurity strategy encompassing security policies, infrastructure, compliance, threat detection, response, and recovery. As integral members of the executive leadership team, vCISOs possess the expertise to translate cyber risks into business impacts and advise on the performance of the cybersecurity program in light of these risks.


The responsibilities of a CISO, whether full-time or virtual, vary based on the unique needs and challenges faced by each healthcare organization. When engaging a vCISO, they embark on a step-by-step process to fully grasp the existing cybersecurity efforts and tailor appropriate plans for enhancements:


Assess Phase: The vCISO establishes a baseline for the organization’s current cybersecurity efforts, identifying areas of strength and critical gaps. They conduct comprehensive reviews of security policies, data flows, network architecture, and engage with key stakeholders, including security, operations, and risk management teams, as well as executives and board members, to align cybersecurity needs with overall business objectives.


Plan Phase: After setting the baseline and identifying gaps, the vCISO develops a risk advisory workflow to implement approved controls and improve the organization’s cybersecurity posture. They collaborate with executives and the board to gain consensus on communication frequencies and reporting details.


Act Phase: The vCISO oversees the strategic plan’s implementation, tapping into both internal and external resources to execute prioritized projects.


Measure Phase: To manage risk levels and assess the cybersecurity program’s effectiveness, the vCISO establishes key performance indicators (KPIs) and key risk indicators (KRIs). Regular communication of these metrics to key stakeholders ensures continuous improvement in technical and business terms.


Is a vCISO Right for Your Healthcare Organization?


Considering the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations in the increasingly sophisticated threat landscape, hiring a full-time CISO may not always be practical. In such cases, here are five key benefits that a vCISO can bring to your healthcare organization:


Expertise: vCISOs possess a decade or more of experience in cybersecurity and information technology, having served as security leaders in various industries. They can fulfill short-term project needs and lead the development of a comprehensive cybersecurity program.


Cost-Effectiveness: Given the high demand and shortage of cybersecurity specialists, their salaries often command six figures. Leveraging a vCISO can help mitigate the costs associated with a full-time hire, including benefits, training, and onboarding, while bypassing the limitations of the skills gap.


Flexibility: A vCISO’s tasks adapt to the organization’s evolving needs. As an outsourced resource, their time can be scaled easily to support additional efforts such as board meetings, audits, cyber incidents, or ad-hoc needs like third-party risk assessments.


Objectivity: Freed from company bureaucracy, a vCISO remains objective while fully integrated into your healthcare organization, dedicated to its success, and providing critical strategic direction, insights, and guidance for the cybersecurity program.


Access to a Strong Resource Pool: Often, vCISOs are part of companies that offer a wide range of cybersecurity resources. This expertise can be leveraged as needed to provide a holistic approach to securing your healthcare organization’s network and data.


With the attack surface continuously expanding and cyber threats becoming more sophisticated, having a seasoned CISO leading your healthcare organization’s cybersecurity efforts is vital. If hiring a full-time resource is not feasible, a vCISO could be the ideal, cost-effective, and flexible solution to ensure the utmost cybersecurity protection for your healthcare organization, yielding comparable outcomes to that of a full-time hire.


Are you considering a vCISO for your healthcare organization? PatientLock is here to help. For more information on our vCISO services, book a consultation