Why Scripps hired a former FBI agent

As healthcare organizations across the country are seeing an increase in cybersecurity incidents coupled with a rise in violence against nurses, physicians and hospital staff, San Diego-based Scripps Health has hired a new secret weapon to try to make the organization safer. 

Retired Special Agent Todd Walbridge was hired by Scripps as the new senior director for corporate and system safety and security. The decision to hire Mr. Walbridge was rooted in a long-standing collaboration between Scripps Health and the FBI. The retired special agent had previously played a crucial role in advising Scripps Health when it experienced a ransomware attack in 2021.

Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder told Becker's that it is important for healthcare organizations to have collaborations with law enforcement as incidents of workplace violence and cyber threats continue to rise. 

Mr. Van Gorder said incidents of workplace violence at Scripps' five hospital campuses surged by 31% in fiscal year 2023 compared to the previous year, totaling 2,335 incidents. But with Mr. Walbridge's law enforcement expertise, Scripps is upping its collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, creating a seamless interface to analyze and respond to security threats.

One notable initiative, which Mr. Walbridge is a part of, is the establishment of a task force focused on workplace violence. The initiative, called the San Diego Hospital Workforce Violence Task Force, collaborates with hospitals, law enforcement agencies and the district attorney's office to try to mitigate risks and improve overall security in healthcare settings.

"I'm chairing the workplace violence task force, but at some point when he [Mr. Walbridge] has been integrated with us long enough and oriented, I'll probably let him take it over for me," Mr. Van Gorder said. "He's already starting to build relationships with other law enforcement agencies for us. And unlike me, a hospital administrator trying to do law enforcement, Todd is able to connect with them and speak the same language."

Beyond physical security, Mr. Walbridge is also exploring technological solutions, including the use of artificial intelligence in surveillance cameras to identify unusual behavior. 

"He's looking at everything from the normal securities but also looking at our staffing, training, technology, and interfacing with law enforcement — all the things that I would want a senior leader in security to be able to do," Mr. Van Gorder said. 

As the healthcare industry grapples with the escalating challenges of cybersecurity and workplace violence, Scripps Health's proactive approach in appointing a seasoned law enforcement professional underscores the growing need for innovative solutions and partnerships to ensure the safety of both patients and healthcare professionals.

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