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Harris Health Gets $150K from Feds to Help Improve Cybersecurity

October 14, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Houston, Texas-based Harris Health System has received a $150,000 grant to help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) develop and improve ways to share cybersecurity threat information.

Officials from the health system say it’s the only healthcare organization that has gotten this award, which will also aim to help HHS protect the critical cyber infrastructure of the nation’s public and private healthcare sector.  In February, President Barack Obama signed an executive order directing agencies to tackle the threat of cybersecurity attacks. The order encourages the development of information sharing and analysis organizations (ISAOs) to serve as focal points for cybersecurity collaboration within the private sector and between the private sector and government.

Jeffrey Vinson, vice president and chief information security officer, Harris Health System, said Harris Health is at the “tip of the spear” in terms of cybersecurity noting the cyber-threat intelligence it receives and sees can be leveraged to help others nationwide secure sensitive health care and patient information.

“Over the past decade, healthcare stakeholders have implemented a health information technology infrastructure to access, send and receive electronic health data,” Vinson said in a statement. “However, unlike other industries such as finance, which have already been transformed by technology, many healthcare organizations have not invested sufficiently in robust IT security measures that can protect and encrypt health data in electronic health record systems, interfaces, repositories, databases, connected medical devices and personal devices,” he said.

“Through this grant, Harris Health System will identify the cybersecurity information needs and gaps of hospitals and other healthcare organizations across the country,” added Steve Curren, director of the critical infrastructure protection program in HHS’ office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

Harris Health “will propose a strategy for enhancing the sharing of cybersecurity information among the federal government and private sector partners to better protect the critical cyber infrastructure of the nation’s healthcare system,” Curren added. “This planning grant represents a preliminary step toward future activities that HHS may undertake to work with and support information sharing and analysis organizations focused on the health care and public health sector.”

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