How Zero Trust Accelerates a More Secure Infrastructure for Healthcare

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This blog is part of “ZTNA Partners,” a series where we take a closer look at how our partnerships protect today's hybrid workforces and environments with ZTNA 2.0.

Cybersecurity has always been a uniquely important priority for healthcare. And that is especially true today, as organizations face new and significant challenges — and major cyberthreats — to the security and compliance of their applications and infrastructure, as well as the privacy of patient data.

Accenture and Palo Alto Networks see a modern Zero Trust security posture with Zero Exceptions as a powerful way for any healthcare organization to elevate its cybersecurity game while delivering world-class care and great patient experiences. In this blog, we'll explain why cybersecurity is such an urgent matter for the healthcare industry, and how Zero Trust helps to protect applications, infrastructure, and patient data.

We will also explain how Accenture and Palo Alto Networks work with healthcare providers and payers to achieve their cybersecurity goals — leveraging Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and other cutting-edge cybersecurity tools to manage risk, protect sensitive data, and support patient-centric innovation.

Cybersecurity: An Urgent Challenge for Healthcare Organizations

The COVID pandemic triggered radical changes in how healthcare providers serve patients, collaborate with colleagues, and manage medical data. According to a 2021 U.S. government study, the pandemic resulted in a 63-fold increase in remote patient consultations. Today, in-person visits and traditional clinical settings are coming back into the healthcare mix, but home-based and remote access telehealth options are here to stay — giving patients and providers greater freedom and flexibility, and bringing care to traditionally underserved populations.

This new flexibility, however, also creates three significant cybersecurity challenges:

  1. Security and flexibility need to coexist. Today, remote access and telehealth services mean that medical care is something that may happen almost anywhere. But ensuring healthcare access and flexibility also means providing patients and providers with secure and seamless access to medical records and applications, no matter where they're located or what types of endpoints, IoT, or IoMT they may be using.
  2. Healthcare is a clear target. Modern medicine is a data-driven discipline — and in the case of patient medical records, it's absolutely vital to maintain the security, privacy, and integrity of that data. Today, that's more difficult than ever: cyberattackers are more skilled and highly motivated; sophisticated, and state-backed attacks are on the rise; and the fallout from a successful healthcare data breach can have life or death implications if it disrupts treatment schedules or undermines the integrity of patient data.
  3. Legacy security is a fail. Today's dynamic and distributed healthcare technology environments don't play well with a traditional security model that sets up a network perimeter to identify "trusted" users and systems. And once these lines begin to blur, it gets easier for attackers to move freely and cause greater damage once they break through an organization's perimeter defenses and pose as authorized users.

ZTNA 2.0 Brings Zero Trust with Zero Exceptions: A Better Path to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Zero Trust is not a security product or tool. It's a cybersecurity framework that brings together a variety of useful toolsets and approaches. There are a few things about the Zero Trust model that make it so useful for securing applications, infrastructure, and users in today's cybersecurity environment. Some of the key areas that need to be considered as part of this methodology include continuous trust verification and security inspection, protection of all data, security for all apps, and least privilege access.

Built to be flexible. A Zero Trust approach uses tactics like network segmentation to limit an attacker's ability to break through perimeter security and run amok in a "trusted" environment. In fact, unlike a traditional security model, Zero Trust never assumes that a user is trusted simply because they're inside a secure perimeter.

This makes Zero Trust a great model for modern healthcare environments where remote and mobile access is a must, and where security can't come at the expense of patient care or a great user experience. No matter how your organization and care models evolve, Zero Trust can adapt and scale to keep it secure.

Focus on security where it matters the most. Zero Trust focuses on protecting critical systems and data, rather than trying to defend a vast (and often expanding) network perimeter. This shift from "attack surfaces" to "protect surfaces'' makes for a much easier, simpler, and lower risk set of cybersecurity tasks, and it makes better use of finite IT resources. A logical starting point for many organizations on their journey to Zero Trust is applying these principles to protecting users and applications. This modern approach expands these concepts further to deliver true least privilege access, continuous trust verification, security inspection and protection for all data and all apps.

This approach works especially well for healthcare organizations, since industry compliance standards like HIPAA and PCI draw clear lines around sensitive systems and data that demand strong security. And it's a game-changer for overstretched IT organizations where a mandate to "protect everything" may end up protecting nothing.

Security is never an all-or-nothing gamble. Zero Trust uses advanced tools and techniques such as fine-grained access controls with behavior-based continuous trust verification after users connect to dramatically reduce the attack surface, deep and ongoing security inspection to ensure all traffic is secure without compromising performance or user experience, as well as consistent visibility with a single DLP policy to secure both access and data across the entire enterprise. The system never gives users more access or authority than what's exactly needed to perform the task at hand — and that means fewer opportunities for attackers to use a toehold in one system as a starting point for bigger and more damaging exploits.

This capability is great for healthcare organizations, where it’s common to define which records a care team or a patient should access. And for the most sensitive applications, Zero Trust can implement additional user or endpoint controls for highly targeted access and audit trails.

Accenture and Palo Alto Networks: A Proven Partnership for the Healthcare Industry

Implementing a Zero Trust model comes with its own set of challenges, and this can be unfamiliar territory for healthcare organizations that rely on legacy security methods. That's why Palo Alto Networks and Accenture offer cybersecurity services and solutions tailored to the healthcare industry — giving organizations a fast and effective path to success with a Zero Trust strategy.

Consider a couple of common healthcare cybersecurity use cases where Palo Alto Networks and Accenture help organizations elevate their game, improve KPIs, and ensure world-class patient care.

Secure network modernization: Organizations have a lot of competing priorities for their networking strategies: staying ahead of growth, supporting innovation with telemedicine and remote services, laying a foundation for quality care and great patient experiences, and, of course, holding the line on cybersecurity. With solutions like Prisma Access with ZTNA 2.0, Palo Alto Networks gives healthcare organizations the right tools for success with a Zero Trust model. Accenture locks in this value with consulting, integration, accelerated implementation, and managed services that align a healthcare organization's Zero Trust posture precisely with its business and patient care goals.

Remote patient monitoring: The ability to monitor patients, capture real-time healthcare data, and mine this data for insights into treatments and outcomes has been one of the most exciting areas for healthcare innovation and growth. But there's a flipside: the challenges that come with securing vast numbers of devices, protecting patient privacy, maintaining compliance, and ensuring secure access for care providers and patients.

For example, healthcare organizations can establish secure and robust digital experience with Zero Trust principles applied to solutions enabling work from home, remote clinician experience, telehealth (both for provider and patient), and digital front door. Taking this modern, holistic approach reduces complexity and security sprawl caused by point solutions.

Formula for Success with Zero Trust

This is an exciting time for the healthcare industry in terms of leveraging technology to help patients live longer, happier lives. Cybersecurity threats put those gains at risk — but adopting a Zero Trust security model with ZTNA 2.0 gives healthcare organizations a proven solution that can scale and evolve without sacrificing flexibility, security performance, or the user experience. Get started by downloading our Zero Trust for healthcare reference architecture to learn more about this methodology and best practices.

Let Palo Alto Networks and Accenture show your healthcare organization how to leverage a Zero Trust model for a successful and more secure future. Learn more about our joint security capabilities.