Hospitals & Facilities

Google and Microsoft commit to cybersecurity assistance for rural hospitals

The pledges aim to impact the nation’s 1,800 to 2,100 rural facilities.
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3 min read

Google and Microsoft are working together—and it’s not on a chatbot or new virtual reality glasses for cartoon paper clips.

The Biden administration announced on June 10 that the two tech giants have committed to making their cybersecurity services and training more easily available to rural hospitals—facilities that the executive branch noted can suffer greater disruptions from healthcare-related cyberattacks, in part because their remote locations make diverting care more difficult.

  • Microsoft. According to a same-day announcement on its site, the company will give “nonprofit pricing and discounts for its security products optimized for smaller organizations, providing up to a 75% discount,” along with free cybersecurity training, assessments, and—for at least one year, the company says—Windows 10 security updates.
  • Google. The White House said that Google will “provide endpoint security advice to rural hospitals and nonprofit organizations at no cost,” as well as a pilot program designed to help rural facilities “develop a packaging of security capabilities that fit these hospitals’ unique needs.”

Spokespeople for the two companies were not available for comment at the time of publication.

Who qualifies? There are 1,800 to 2,100 rural hospitals in the US, according to the White House. (A tool from the Rural Health Information Hub can help you find them.) Microsoft announced its measures specifically for independent critical access hospitals and rural emergency hospitals.

Rural vs. urban: An April American Hospital Association report used hospital data from 2017 to 2022 to conclude that 48% of rural hospitals “consistently experienced negative operating margins from patient services prior to and during the Covid-19 pandemic.” Consulting firm Kaufman Hall reported in February that “the lowest performing 20% of rural hospitals are, in fact, generating much lower margins than their urban counterparts this year.”

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Theresa Payton, CEO of cybersecurity firm Fortalice Solutions and former White House chief information officer, commended Microsoft for offering substantial discounts, and said rural hospitals face difficult purchasing decisions when it comes to finding affordable security products.

“As a hospital administrator, if you have $1 to spend, the focus is often on enhancing healthcare either through adding staff or life-saving medical equipment or medicines. The patient comes first,” Payton wrote in an email to Healthcare Brew.

Ransomware emergency. Globally, healthcare-sector ransomware attacks have “nearly doubled” since 2022, according to a report from The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, climbing from 214 claimed victims in 2022 to 389 in 2023. (US-based attacks increased by 128%.) Since 2016, ransomware attacks on US healthcare organizations have cost the economy about $77.5 billion in downtime, according to an October 2023 analysis released by cybersecurity research firm Comparitech.

2024 cybersecurity attacks, including those against UnitedHealth Group, Ascension, and most recently, the London-based pathology provider Synnovis, have been crippling and costly.

On June 10, the same day as the White House’s announcement of private-sector partnerships, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) reported on the Synnovis security incident’s impact on critical bloodwork.

“The IT incident affecting a pathology provider means the affected hospitals cannot currently match patients’ blood at the same frequency as usual,” an NHS statement read.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.