Healthcare Organizations Face Unique Patch Management Challenges

Software Security Challenges

When it comes to software patching, some industries are simply more challenged than others. This is especially true for the healthcare sector.

All industries struggle to adequately apply critical software security updates, or “patch” their computing environments. However, healthcare has unique challenges that go beyond typical patch management barriers. Why is this?

Healthcare, like most organizations, face all the standard operational obstacles that generally impede software patching: 

  • Risk of Outage – Patching is the single riskiest operation that IT departments must perform. The outage of a critical application that was fully operational and then taken out of production is highly impactful and counterproductive to operations.
  • After-Hours Maintenance – Patching must occur during off-hours, yet organizations often cannot hire and retain skilled engineering staff to work during those hours. This leads to current staff working off-hours which delays assigned maintenance of business and strategic projects.
  • Lack of Process and Technology – Robust technologies and processes are required to patch and report on patching effectively, but frequently these are not fully deployed nor maintained over time.

But, for healthcare organizations, overcoming these obstacles means getting to the base camp. Now the real climb starts:

  • Impact on Patient Care – Patient care is impacted during an outage, as a patching failure that takes down an application exposes the organization to financial and legal risk.
  • Scheduled Disruption – Hospitals are 24-hour operations, yet budgets often do not accommodate for staff and highly available IT infrastructure for all production applications, so patching involves disruptive scheduled outages.
  • “Snowflake” Server Configurations – Hospitals run hundreds of applications and are therefore challenged to standardize their server configurations and are forced to patch a fragmented, highly-heterogeneous environment.
  • HIPAA Violation – The failure to patch not only increases the risk of a breach, but it also is a HIPAA violation.

Given the lack of resources in the face of these significant operational obstacles, it’s not surprising that numerous hospitals struggle to maintain a fully patched environment. Unfortunately, the situation often persists for years as the environment continues to grow further out of compliance.

Could a service provider fill the gap? Possibly; however, there are important questions to be considered…How to manage and mitigate the 3rd party risk? Can the internal processes and culture be accommodated? And of course, would it be cost-effective?

At Patchworx, we directly work with you and your staff to assist healthcare organizations with a proven process to get the patching or software current, often after years of non-compliance. We have the experience, client references, and a committed focus to perform this difficult but essential function. You can count on us to be there every month and perform our service consistently without failure.

Contact us today for a 15-minute conversation to see if Patchworx is a fit for you.

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