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ARPA-H launches project to protect digital healthcare infrastructure

Biden-Harris Administration’s ARPA-H initiative launches digital health security effort to address cybersecurity threats to U.S. healthcare

The ARPA-H project aims to ensure patients continue to receive care in the wake of a medical facility cyberattack

Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), launched the Digital Health Security (DIGIHEALS) project to protect the U.S. healthcare system’s electronic infrastructure. Through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), the project will solicit proposals for proven technologies developed for national security and apply them to civilian health systems, clinical care facilities, and personal health devices.

“The DIGIHEALS project comes when the U.S. healthcare system urgently requires rigorous cybersecurity capabilities to protect patient privacy, safety, and lives,” said ARPA-H Director Dr. Renee Wegrzyn. “Currently, off-the-shelf software tools fall short in detecting emerging cyberthreats and protecting our medical facilities, resulting in a technical gap we seek to bridge with this initiative.”

DIGIHEALS aims to ensure patients continue to receive care in the wake of a widespread cyberattack on a medical facility — like those that have caused hospitals to close their doors permanently.

By focusing on cutting-edge security protocols, vulnerability detection, and automatic patching, this effort seeks to reduce the ability for bad actors to attack digital health software and enable the prevention of large-scale cyberattacks. In addition to addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities, the project aims to identify and fix software-related weaknesses that affect patient safety and experience.

“By adapting and extending security, usability, and software assurance technologies, this digital health security effort will play a crucial role in addressing vulnerabilities in health systems,” said ARPA-H Program Manager Andrew Carney. “This project will also help us identify technical limitations of future technology deployments and contribute to the development of new innovations in digital security to better keep our health systems and patients’ information secure.”

Proposals for DIGIHEALS must be submitted through the Scaling Health Applications Research for Everyone (SHARE) BAA. Multiple awards under the DIGIHEALS area of focus for the SHARE BAA are anticipated and resources available will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds.