• Home
  • Blogs
  • 2024 cybersecurity predictions for rural hospitals, part 1

2024 cybersecurity predictions for rural hospitals, part 1

Last year brought a substantial amount of change to the health care industry. From the introduction of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and its subsequent challenges, the regulatory landscape shaping cybersecurity requirements and funding, and the increasing recognition that security is a shared responsibility across all departments, each facet reflects the dynamic nature of rural health care in the face of evolving challenges and opportunities. These trends will continue to accelerate in the year ahead.
Read on for the first part of CloudWave’s 2024 predictions  on what to expect in the health care IT landscape for rural hospitals.

A new rationalization of cybersecurity resources
There has recently been a subtle shift in how rural health care organizations are allocating cybersecurity funding. According to a recent Gartner Report, health care organizations still place cybersecurity as one of their top three funding priorities. However, as health care organizations continue investing in cybersecurity, they are expected to start rethinking their approach by focusing on streamlining resources for greater efficiency and risk mitigation.
Data show that the tumultuous events that began in 2020 and led to the widespread shift to remote work and surge in cyber events have prompted many rural organizations to invest in new technologies and tools to shore up their defenses quickly.
However, the surge in previous spending created tool redundancies and inefficiencies for many rural health care organizations. In 2024, the industry, especially rural hospitals, will reexamine cybersecurity strategies to invest in tools and services that eliminate overlap and help optimize existing technologies that can further advance their cybersecurity posture to protect against new threats. 
While cybersecurity remains a top spending priority, rural hospitals still have tight budgets, leading to a more rationalized approach to managing resources. Rural hospitals will scrutinize their technology portfolios and reconsider how to invest in cybersecurity, emphasizing the need for efficiency and effectiveness of what they already have versus additional spending. One cost-effective option may be for rural hospitals to outsource cybersecurity skills to a dedicated partner.
In 2024, streamlining cybersecurity portfolios for increased efficiency will likely continue as organizations find that a leaner, well-integrated set of tools can often outperform a disjointed array of cybersecurity solutions. This shift towards efficiency is both a cost-saving measure and a strategic move to enhance overall security. Success depends not on having the latest tools but implementing the right tools strategically to build a robust, efficient cybersecurity program that can address evolving threats.

Challenges and risks of artificial intelligence
Another challenge facing rural health care organizations is the opportunities, challenges, and cybersecurity risks of new AI technologies. AI has the potential to reshape rural health care in profound ways, changing how care is delivered, how medical research is conducted, and how cybercriminals threaten patient data.
Today, AI is no longer confined to a niche but has become a boardroom topic. Rural health care leaders have a monumental task in determining if and how they will harness AI’s benefits while safeguarding against risks. They must craft a clear AI strategy that aligns with their organization’s priorities and resources. For some, this will mean partnering with leading vendors to implement AI tools developed by industry powerhouses. For others, it may require substantial investments to build internal AI capabilities or, conversely, deciding to limit the use of AI until the appropriate safeguards can be put in place.
Regardless of the approach, rural health care leaders must articulate how and when to leverage AI to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance patient experience. Those choosing to partner with AI innovators must also be equipped to convey how their selected vendors are addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by AI.
At the same time, rural health care leaders face the sobering reality that cybercriminals can weaponize AI to launch more targeted attacks. Beyond conventional threats like ransomware, malicious actors will leverage AI to quickly parse stolen data and craft more sophisticated and highly personalized spear-phishing emails. AI also enables automated password cracking, posing a severe threat to account security.  To learn more about AI threats to rural hospitals, watch this on-demand NRHA webinar. To counter these risks, stakeholders must implement robust security frameworks that protect external entry points and internal systems handling sensitive data like electronic health records.
In summary, rural health care organizations can strengthen their security posture while managing costs by reevaluating technology investments, eliminating redundancies, outsourcing cybersecurity resources, and optimizing current tools. The future of health care cybersecurity is efficiency. Doing more with less will be crucial to risk mitigation and financial stability. Rural health care organizations must also adopt a multifaceted approach to AI security to navigate this evolving threat landscape. This includes scrutinizing the AI tools integrated into internal processes and the other systems already being examined.
To learn more about these topics and get information about specific actions, register for the NRHA cybersecurity trends for 2024 webinar series.
March 5: Part 1: Streamlined cybersecurity resources for efficiency and how AI is transforming health care
March 20: Part 2: The trend towards cybersecurity regulations and a shift in health care cybersecurity responsibility and their impacts on rural hospitals

NRHA adapted the above piece from CloudWavea trusted NRHA partner, for publication within the Association’s Rural Health Voices blog.

This website uses cookies. By accepting the use of cookies, this message will close and you will receive the optimal website experience. For more information on our cookie policy, please visit our Privacy Policy