Echoing language used in a policy proposal issued by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a new Senate bill proposes creating a rural hospital cybersecurity workforce development strategy to address longstanding staffing challenges in these areas of the country.
Sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., the bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan with the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor to address the growing need for skilled cyber professionals in rural area hospitals within a year.
Rural hospitals face specific challenges and a need for government assistance. As SC Media previously reported, small, rural and under-resourced entities’ lack budgets and staff to adequately secure their networks. These limitations also mean that broader security advice may not even be relevant to rural hospital environments.
In 2019, New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, issued a paper with a section detailing workforce challenges in these regions and across healthcare as a whole. Healthcare cybersecurity leaders are faced with complicated infrastructure, resource constraints and staffing shortages. At the time of the report, the pay of healthcare cyber leaders was estimated as three to four times less than other industries.
These workforce challenges further compound healthcare technology issues, including a heavy reliance on legacy tech and patch management gaps. The New America report stressed that government assistance should begin with recruiting and retention issues to begin fixing these challenges.
Four years later, Hawley’s proposal takes aim at these challenges that are far more prevalent today.