Healthcare is a multi-trillion-dollar industry with high-stakes outcomes. Compliance and risk management are critical — from ensuring patient privacy to providing optimum care, managing compliance, and minimizing risk –– it’s an around-the-clock priority.

Yet, while patients and healthcare providers recognize the importance of risk management and compliance, there are a number of misconceptions about what they are, how they differ, why they matter, and how healthcare systems can implement an effective strategy for both.


Risk and Compliance Defined

Risk is defined by The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) as “the probability of an event and its consequence.” Compliance is described as requirements set forth by a regulatory body.

Risk management in healthcare includes clinical and administrative systems and processes to detect, monitor, assess, mitigate, and prevent risks. Patient privacy and healthy outcomes remain the top risk management priority, along with protecting an organization’s assets, market share, and community reputation.

Compliance in healthcare is about following rules or standards and there’s a variety of legal, professional, and ethical examples in healthcare. These standards help create a culture of compliance that ultimately promotes prevention, detection, and resolution of non-conforming situations.


Charting a Course to Compliance and Risk Management

It’s natural to conclude that compliance means a reduced level of risk, while non-compliance results in a higher level of risk. However, this is not always the case.

Think of it in terms of precision health. Some patients can and will comply with all the advice from their doctors, yet they remain at risk of various issues due to genetics. At the same time, some patients won’t or can’t comply with prescribed changes to behavior, diet, medicine, or clinical care, yet they are still at very low risk for those same issues due to genetics. Both compliance and risk need to be considered to determine the best care for each patient.

So how can a healthcare organization ensure compliance and minimize risk?

Beyond ensuring that we’re checking all the right boxes for compliance, the first step to reduce risk within a hospital network is to understand where the data, and especially the most critical data, resides within the healthcare system network. This can be done with a Cisco Segmentation Advisory service, which includes asset discovery leveraging Cisco Secure Network Analytics technology.

Next, Cisco’s security professionals can perform a Threat Risk Assessment to inform architecture and technology recommendations and mitigate policy gaps, helping to ensure adequate security controls are applied. An assessment is based on the importance of an asset, the identity and probability of security risks to applications, data, and devices, and clinical impacts. Not all IT assets within a hospital require the same risk treatment, so prioritizing and planning to protect the most important assets is key.

Cisco security professionals also help implement the network segmentation design leveraging both Cisco technology and services to help ensure medical network assets are properly secured. Additionally, our professionals help address findings identified in the Threat Risk Assessment by implementing Cisco security controls and associated services.

In the end, good security is not about passing an audit; it requires a regular program review to ensure current controls are sufficient to protect critical healthcare functions, especially given the continuous ways security can be breached.


Cisco Security Experts and Services Can Help

With guidance from a team of more than 5,000 global Cisco security experts and a dedicated team of healthcare experts, we help healthcare customers gain the confidence they need that they’re meeting compliance requirements, reducing audit exposures, and managing risk. This confidence is further boosted by our active involvement in the evolving threat landscape, where we provide multiple levels of real-time industry guidance. In addition, we’re a regular contributor to the Mitre ATT&CK, a knowledge-based framework for monitoring the techniques and methods an attacker may use to compromise a health system.

Cisco offers a portfolio of healthcare security services, including Zero Trust, Security Segmentation (including asset discovery), Ransomware Mitigation, Threat Risk Assessments, and Security Strategy services leveraging the HIMSS Infrastructure Adoption Model’s framework.

For today’s modern healthcare organizations, a culture of healthcare compliance is key. A strategic compliance plan anchored around a comprehensive security risk assessment provides a strong foundation to continually manage compliance and monitor risk. It also creates a healthcare system that patients can confidently and repeatedly turn to for their care needs.

Learn more by visiting Cisco security services and our Cisco Healthcare industry website, and download Cisco’s Security Outcomes Study for Healthcare.


Stew Wolfe

Senior Manager

Cisco Security Services