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VA Can Learn from DoD in EHR Overhaul

As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) moves toward replacement of its decades-old VistA electronic health record (EHR) system, a tumultuous first half of 2018 seems to have settled into a period of practicality.

President Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin from his post on March 28 after an inspector general report asserted violations of federal ethics rules and procedures related to an overseas trip by Shulkin. The agency’s acting CIO, Scott Blackburn, then resigned on April 17, leaving in limbo a $10 billion contract for VA to adopt the same Cerner EHR platform being pilot-tested by the Department of Defense (DoD).

The proposed VA-Cerner deal had already triggered concern in Congress that the project’s price tag wouldn’t cover an additional 50 to 60 percent in costs to upgrade supporting infrastructure as well as ongoing maintenance for the new EHR.

Nonetheless, VA announced on May 17 that a contract with Cerner had indeed been signed, capping out at $10 billion over 10 years, and stipulating that VA would adopt the same EHR platform as DoD. Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Shulkin’s successor, said the new system, when fully deployed, would represent “a monumental advance in veterans’ healthcare” and build on DoD’s experiences in rolling out its EHR.

Operating the VA’s and DoD’s EHR systems on the same platform would improve interoperability and health data exchange, which in turn would simplify and facilitate care coordination for VA providers, Wilkie explained.

System Shortcomings

While striving to meet high expectations for its new EHR, the VA will undoubtedly learn from DoD’s Cerner-based MHS Genesis EHR implementations at Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor and Naval Hospital Bremerton — all located in Washington state — from September through December 2017. A DoD memo dated April 30, 2018, concluded that system rollouts at those three sites “[did] not demonstrate enough workable functionality to manage and document patient care.” The report said MHS Genesis “is not operationally suitable because of poor system usability, insufficient training and inadequate help desk support.”

Other specifics cited in the DoD memo included “poorly defined user roles and workflows, [which] resulted in an increase in the time required for healthcare providers to complete daily tasks.” Some providers complained that they needed to work overtime and saw fewer patients per day due to delays caused by defects in the EHR system.

In response, Cerner President Zane Burke told shareholders in May that the company was aware of certain issues upfront at the three test sites, but DoD’s delivery on the project had gone “incredibly well overall.” Cerner plans to evaluate and remediate as necessary at the pilot MHS Genesis sites, Burke added.

In doing so, Cerner will need to address the workflow issue in particular, according to Navy Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, director of DoD’s Defense Health Agency. “Workflow adoption is the crux of the change management that’s needed to successfully deploy an EHR system, Bono said during a panel discussion at the HIMSS18 healthcare IT conference in March. Bono noted that DoD would be working in concert with VA to ensure proper identification and “unanimity of workflows.”

Meeting Challenges Through Integration

Although the DoD and VA EHR implementations may be unprecedented in size and scope, the inherent obstacles translate to smaller but similar-in-concept projects underway at healthcare stakeholder facilities across the country. In many cases, cloud-based integration and strong data management are critical factors for success.

A single cloud-based platform, such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange, enables hospitals and physician practices to reduce the time, cost and effort associated with EHR integration. By streamlining clinical workflow and communications with trading partners, facilities can support automated processes in place of paper-based workarounds, thereby reducing administrative costs and complementing existing IT investments. And, in the end, that frees up providers for their primary task — taking care of patients.

To find out more about HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Health Data is a Prime Target: How to Minimize Risk

Health Data is a Prime Target: How to Minimize Risk

More than 60 percent of healthcare organizations suffered a data breach in the past 12 months, according to information security researcher Ponemon Institute. In total, over 5 million healthcare records were exposed or stolen among entities studied by Ponemon.

Recent incidents show no abatement in cybercriminals’ attraction to healthcare data. For example, Florida Hospital reported earlier this month that patient information on 12,724 individuals might have been exposed through a malware infection on three of the organization’s websites. Three months earlier, St. Peter’s Surgery & Endoscopy Center in New York disclosed that hackers had potentially gained access to server-based medical records of nearly 135,000 patients.

Healthcare in the Crosshairs

Approximately 7 million patients will have their data compromised by hacks in 2019, estimates consulting firm Accenture, racking up billions of dollars in costs to hospitals and health systems.

What makes the healthcare particularly vulnerable?

A Computerworld report explains that healthcare data, which includes personal identifiers and medical histories, can be sold virtually unchallenged over time on the black market. In contrast, financial data often becomes useless once a breach has been discovered and passcodes changed. Cybercriminals, aware of the premium value of healthcare records, focus their attacks in pursuit of the greatest possible returns.

Other factors contributing to healthcare’s data security liability include:

  • increasing access to medical records as entities share information across integrated sites of care;
  • legal requirements to store medical records for extended periods of time;
  • efforts to connect electronic health record systems, often relying on unsecured patches that can open the door to unauthorized entry; and
  • inadequate education of employees about modes of cyberattacks.

On a broader scale, but not to be discounted, foreign governments’ so called “state actors” may attempt to accumulate healthcare data that could help in social engineering of future attacks. Such a tactic might deploy emails to individuals who have a specific medical condition — with malware linked to prompts for more information.

Risk Mitigation

Big data sets in healthcare, despite ever-increasing volume, can be managed through ongoing risk assessments and implementation of preventative security controls, such as continuous monitoring programs. However, those measures come at a cost that must be weighed against the uncertainty of threat protection.

“Each organization needs to evaluate risk and its security needs in the context of its organizational and business requirements to determine where it makes the most sense to invest their people, time and financial resources,” advises Christine Sublett, a member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthcare Industry Cybersecurity Task Force.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform deserves consideration as healthcare organizations work through their cybersecurity evaluations. The system combines HIPAA-based security and HL7 standard interfacing compliance — with attestations available upon request. Additionally, NetDirector uses a physically secure Peak10 facility for hosting customer data. This approach ensures data integrity without the need for additional IT investment and the associated risk of self-managing connection points among exchange partners.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Workflow-Aware Outreach Contributes to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity presents a huge, ongoing challenge for healthcare organizations across the board. Information systems, medical devices, and patient data must be protected at all times, but many hospitals and practices cannot afford to retain in-house personnel solely dedicated to security. At the same time, they often lack the technology infrastructure needed to identify and track security threats and subsequently translate threat data into action.

What’s more, healthcare workers regularly and mistakenly assume their IT network and supported devices function with a low level of cybersecurity vulnerability.

An industry task force, established by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, reported to Congress last June with recommendations for shaping an urgent response. The group set forth expectations for healthcare cybersecurity and called for increased protections for and resilience of IT systems and supported devices. The task force also addressed human factors by emphasizing workforce readiness enabled by improved cybersecurity awareness and education.

An Effective Action Plan

Forward-thinking facilities recognize that disparate IT systems and devices must interoperate within a unified scheme. For example, when Marin General Hospital, located north of San Francisco, updated system-wide security in 2016, the executive who led the project went beyond filling in technology gaps.

Jason Johnson, Marin’s chief information security officer, told Healthcare IT News: “We took a different approach to focus on the person and people [involved] because we knew that would be the hardest needle to move and the most difficult to change.”

Johnson’s team instituted mandatory security awareness training, going so far as to integrate it within new employee orientation. Additionally, the project team interviewed clinical staff to gain an understanding of their daily workflows. That effort identified caregivers’ top channels of email communication, which paved the way for the build-out of encryption “tunnels” that could seamlessly lock down emails containing patients’ protected health information.

The results? One year after the project started, Marin reported a 50 percent drop in system vulnerabilities, along with 100 percent staff participation in security awareness efforts. Click rates on malicious emails fell from 63 percent to a practically non-existent 0.5 percent.

Departmental outreach was key, concluded Johnson. “Once people were convinced it was a good idea and everyone was onboard, security became a requirement,” he explained. Every new project or contract now requires a standardized security review.

Integration and the Human Factor

As the Marin case shows, technology integration can flourish through an approach that takes into account human responsibilities on the front lines of care. Healthcare is notorious for dependence on “tribal knowledge” — individualized bits of information residing in staff members’ heads or scribbled on post-it notes — and such vulnerabilities often aren’t readily apparent. However, workflow-based analysis takes into account human factors prior to revamping core processes.

Further, technology such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform, which automates the sharing of clinical and billing data, frees up labor resources by simplifying the integration process. As a result, care providers can spend more time focusing on patient needs while technologists keep a watchful eye on ever-present compliance and cybersecurity issues.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector and myCatalyst Partnership Relieves Data Troubles and Eases Integration Process for Improved Healthcare Outcomes

TAMPA, Fla.Jan. 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has further solidified its presence in the healthcare data environment through a partnership with data-centric, actionable analytics and reporting company myCatalyst, Inc. This collaboration will allow both companies to grow their already strong data integration capabilities, and ultimately improve patient care coordination for all their clients.

With a focus on care coordination and P4O reimbursement models through the support of clinically integrated networks, myCatalyst compiles data from all areas and providers involved in member/population health management. myCatalyst surpasses the limits of data warehousing and, with the collaboration of NetDirector, provides seamless integration with other vendor systems. This includes synchronizing member data and providing physicians and employers with the opportunity to develop a proactive, strategic approach.

The partnership focuses on providing a cloud-based, zero-footprint data integration solution that will allow myCatalyst to connect to even more Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems and Hospital Imaging Systems (HIS).

Robin Foust, co-developer and co-owner of myCatalyst, shared that “joining the NetDirector ecosystem will help myCatalyst connect faster with even more EHRs and HIS systems, and provide for better coordination between components of healthcare. This will allow our customers to achieve optimal efficiency and healthcare outcomes through data integration and collaborative care.”

With the volume and quality of data in healthcare continuing to surge, it is important for companies to leverage that data towards population health and information-driven patient care. The combination of NetDirector and myCatalyst allows healthcare providers and organizations to quickly and accurately exchange data through a multitude of interfaces available to them, without doing the heavy lifting themselves and taking on the additional responsibility of managing data in the cloud.

Using results from encounters, assessments, biometric data, medical, pharmacy claims, and more, myCatalyst compiles data onto a dashboard, and provides the tools necessary to enable physician practices to track patient progress, identify gaps in care, and achieve optimal financial and healthcare outcomes, and to provide data analytics and reporting to support the same for the populations and patients being served (ACO, Employers, Clinically Integrated Networks, Direct-To-Primary Care [DPC], and more).

“Our partnership with myCatalyst is a major step towards providers leveraging the wealth of data available to them,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “We’re excited to be able to assist in bringing a service like myCatalyst to more employer groups and healthcare providers efficiently and securely with our cloud-based HealthData Exchange.

More about NetDirector:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 9 million transactions per month. Learn more at web.netdirector.biz.

More about myCatalyst:

myCatalyst (MCI), is a private Health Information Exchange (HIE) and system support for population health, providing data integration, actionable prescriptive analytics, meaningful reporting, care coordination support, service solutions & more – resulting in optimal financial and healthcare outcomes for populations served, and the organizations serving those populations.  MCI is known for collaborative problem solving to ensure client and program success.

Learn more by contacting: Help@myCatalyst.com

Cloud Services Advancing in Healthcare Technology

Nine hospitals across the country have filed for bankruptcy thus far in 2017. Small facilities, in particular, continue to feel the pinch from a combination of dwindling patient volume, rising capital requirements, escalating costs of care, bad debt accruals and lack of Medicaid funding.

Clearly, something needs to be done to stem the flow of red ink.

Fortunately, we’re seeing a healthy response from health IT vendors, who’ve identified an opportunity among the chaos. Electronic health record (EHR) firms Meditech, athenahealth and eClinicalWorks have rolled out cloud-based versions of their platforms aimed at bringing cost-effective processing and simplified technology contracting to the small-hospital domain.

Even EHR stalwart Epic is joining the movement. On Nov. 1, Tahoe Forest Health System, which serves two rural counties across 3,500 square miles in California and Nevada, went live with a new version of Epic’s EHR. The health system’s CFO, Crystal Betts, anticipates “significant savings without the maintenance of eight EHRs and [retirement of] a host of third-party ancillary systems no longer needed.” Betts added, “The cherry on top is time saved and a boost to quality and safety with a tightly integrated EHR that just works.”

Likewise, athenahealth’s cloud-based EHR has made a significant impact at Coastal Orthopedics (Conway, S.C.), which implemented the technology a little over a year ago to replace separate EHR and practice management systems. “We wanted to be in a position to jump in quickly and effectively as population health management becomes [our] new top-of-mind issue,” noted practice administrator Andrew Wade. With the EHR taking on redundant data-collection tasks, providers and staff have been able to spend more time on patient care.

Above and Beyond

Meanwhile, the healthcare research/ academic community is also leveraging the power of cloud computing. For example, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, scientists and physicians have access to more than 100 terabytes of data generated by DNA sequences as they study the molecular basis of breast and ovarian cancer. They use Amazon Web Services’ cloud to support a genomics platform that dynamically scales to analyze tens of thousands of genomes in a matter of minutes.

In short, cloud computing has enabled management to shift from worrying about data storage, performance, and security to helping researchers understand the sequenced output data.

There’s more to come, too. “The cloud is poised to play a prominent role when healthcare organizations deploy telemedicine, mobile health applications, and remote monitoring tools — trends that are inevitable as organizations implement value-based care programs,” according to a HIMSS Analytics cloud computing survey.

Pathway to Progress

As healthcare organizations continue to put their faith in the cloud, they’re looking for partners who can facilitate implementation and replace layers of internal systems management and integration. And, not coincidentally, they want to do so with predictable ongoing costs.

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange fits the desired profile by normalizing data and documents to achieve EHR interoperability with an expanding array of trading partners, including physician groups, labs, registries and imaging centers. Subscription pricing meshes with organizations’ emerging reliance on scalable services made possible by cloud technology.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Healthcare, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

Ransomware, a treacherous malware exploit that encrypts victims’ data or prevents access to their devices, netted cybercriminals an estimated $1 billion in 2016.

Data-related extortion attacks on businesses rose three-fold during the first nine months of last year, equating to one every 40 seconds. Two-thirds of those hit by ransomware lost all or part of their corporate data and one-quarter spent weeks trying to restore access, according to Kaspersky Labs, a data security firm.

Perhaps even more alarming is a predicted shift from chaotic and sporadic ransomware incidents to steadier assaults in higher volumes. “There is no such thing as a low-risk sector anymore,” Kaspersky’s research warned.

Healthcare, with 16 percent of organizations having been hit by ransomware, ranks in the top 10 among targeted industries.

High stakes for healthcare

Hospitals and health systems, as HIPAA covered entities, must adopt safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA, issued guidance in 2016 presuming a breach in the event of a ransomware attack involving ePHI. In other words, it’s up to the provider organization to prove that a breach did not occur by demonstrating low probability that ePHI was not compromised.

Nonetheless, many organizations remain non-compliant or take a stance of “calculated non-compliance.” That means they deem any potential fine to be cheaper than the reporting costs or technical resources needed to investigate incidents to OCR’s satisfaction, according to James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

All the same, providers should be concerned whether ePHI is properly encrypted and adequately protected against compromise by ransomware. And from a system-wide perspective, additional safeguards should include proper use of passwords, removal of outdated software and unauthorized apps, adherence to regular backup procedures, and educating users not to open attachments or click links from unknown senders. Additionally, operating systems, browsers and antivirus programs should be updated to the latest version on all devices.

Also worth noting: Security shortfalls may be present in system integrations written in-house or by contracted developers.

In any event, “negligence gives cyber criminals the incentive to continue to launch ransomware attacks,” notes security website CSO.

And — as if on cue — a newly discovered form of ransomware may be released this month, reports TechRepublic. The malware, known as RedBoot, not only encrypts files but also permanently repartitions hard drives, rendering data unrecoverable. The alert advises businesses to back up workstations to some form of network or cloud storage, refresh all antivirus software definitions, and train users to avoid phishing scams.

A big ask

Hospitals have their hands full providing the best care possible for patients, around the clock, every day of the week. In that light, they shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the entire load of locking down data against an ever-expanding array of intruders.

Networking companies such as NetDirector have the expertise and capabilities needed to properly secure and integrate healthcare data. All of our certifications and processes (e.g., HIPAA and SOC2) are maintained above industry standards in a fully redundant, cloud-based platform. Healthcare clients put their trust in NetDirector to securely handle more than 10 million data and document transactions per month.

Although ransomware and related intrusions are real concerns, NetDirector stands ready to consult and assist in hardening defenses across the healthcare ecosystem.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector Enters Comprehensive Agreement to Partner with My Constant Care, LLC for Integration Services

TAMPA, Fla.Sept. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has expanded their Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) offerings once again. A strong partnership has been forged with My Constant Care, LLC to provide them with a cloud based integration suite for the already cloud-centric company.

My Constant Care (MCC) provides a unified cloud-based platform for integration and delivery of preventive services such as Annual Wellness Visits, Chronic Care Management, Advanced Care Planning, and Preventative Screenings. Their turnkey delivery model provides patients with the full spectrum of preventive services to enhance overall care delivery without disrupting day-to-day operations of the practice. My Constant Care focuses on maximizing value to both providers and patients. They do this with expert coordination of preventive care options available today while strategically shaping these services to meet performance requirements expected of their future providers in the future. They offer a no-financial-risk solution to the physicians, providing the staff, software, and technology to perform their services.

Utilizing the cloud for integration was a clear next step to elevate the services offered by MCC. NetDirector’s One-to-Many style integration allows MCC to connect to NetDirector once and exchange data seamlessly with EHR systems, billing platforms, and more as the hub expands. Now, MCC’s services can integrate with existing provider platforms as well as future additions to a provider’s suite of technology solutions without relying on internal resources to bridge the gap between solutions.

My Constant Care helps primary care physicians provide a level of service to their Medicare population previously not achievable by small practices,” says Kellie Privette, the Director of Sales and Business Development at MCC. Privette added that “NetDirector’s integration expertise and technology allows MCC to seamless transfer patient data into their customer’s EHR and billing systems, without double entry of a substantial amount of information.”

This integration also increases a provider’s compliance, allowing even small practices to provide the quality and timeliness of service of a larger provider while maintaining and exceeding compliance standards for the healthcare technology industry. By eliminating data entry steps and automating the exchange of patient information securely, the integration allows for providers utilizing My Constant Care to focus more on the patients, and less on the technology behind the scenes.

“We’re very enthusiastic about our partnership with My Constant Care,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “Their services fill a gap in the healthcare industry, and we’re looking forward to helping them achieve their goals of seamless preventive care for everyone.”

Company Bio:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 8 million transactions per month.

Disaster Recovery Planning Essential in a Connected Healthcare Environment

Disaster Recovery Planning Essential in a Connected Healthcare Environment

While we are successfully recovering from Hurricane Irma here in Tampa (with no major damage and no service outage, thankfully), the numbers have started to roll in from Harvey a few weeks ago. Despite Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastating impact in terms of lives lost/displaced and estimated $23 billion property damage in Texas’ Harris and Galveston counties, things could have been much worse if not for the region’s heads-up health IT disaster planning.

Four days after the storm’s landfall, all the electronic health record systems at all the hospitals in Houston appeared to be in “regular working order,” according to Nick Bonvino, CEO of Greater Houston Healthconnect (GHHC), the region’s health information exchange (HIE). GHHC had previously partnered with Health Access San Antonio, the HIE serving a large expanse of central Texas, to establish a statewide hub for Texas HIEs with remote siting and data storage in Salt Lake City.

“If a hospital backs up all of its information to a data center down the block, which is also flooded, that’s not a sufficient solution,” Andrew Gettinger, MD, chief medical information officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, recently told Health Data Management. “You have to think about the geography that’s likely to be at risk and make sure that your backup solution takes care of that so you can recover.”

Indeed, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, healthcare data centers situated in low-lying areas — many in hospital basements — suffered catastrophic flood damage, Gettinger emphasized. Those losses underscored the need for backup systems located out of harm’s way.

Disaster recovery planning

Aside from natural disasters, health care organizations also need to prepare for cyber-threats, such as denial-of-service and ransomware attacks, which can render IT systems inoperable or data inaccessible.

According to Jeremy Molnar, vice president of services for information security firm Cynergistek, proper disaster recovery (DR) planning starts with the assignment of a project manager responsible for implementing a cohesive strategy. Other organizational experts develop needed processes and documentation to support the project manager.

Additional key aspects include:

  • identification of critical data, applications, systems, and personnel;
  • requirements for data backup and emergency-mode operations planning;
  • ongoing testing of and revisions to each component of the DR plan; and
  • assurance of contingency planning in compliance with HIPAA rules, which mandate security risk assessments. Such assessments evaluate the likelihood and impact of exposing protected health information and document the security measures adopted to address identified risks.

State of the industry

Peak 10, an IT infrastructure solutions company, found in its “IT Trends in Healthcare” study that most healthcare organizations execute DR testing less than once annually. Only 25 percent test quarterly.

What’s more eye-opening, the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council estimates that more than 65 percent of organizations who test their DR plan actually fail their own test. Since so many organizations don’t pass their own tests, Peak 10 points out that those who neglect — or elect not to — test “simply won’t recover IT operations sufficiently if disaster [occurs], which in a hospital setting, is a risk not worth taking.”

NetDirector helps mitigate DR concerns by partnering with best-in-class technology companies to provide an “industrial-strength” data exchange platform hosted at a Peak 10 data center. Peak 10 is current with all applicable data security certifications and regulations, including HIPAA.

Additionally, NetDirector connects to multiple data centers in different geographic locations that are continuously updated and available to seamlessly go live as needed. This fault-tolerant set-up provides clients with built-in DR and hot-site swapping capabilities, ensuring minimal to zero disruption. NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange also reduces the need for scheduled maintenance and its accompanying temporary downtime.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Blockchain Technology: An Emerging Force in Healthcare Integration

Back in March, at the conclusion of the HIMSS17 annual conference, we pointed to blockchain as one of the most noteworthy recent developments in the healthcare IT space. We emphasized that blockchain technology, which uses a distributed database and cryptography to securely manage records and create a permanent record of online transactions, deserves recognition for its potential to increase IT and organizational efficiencies — highly valued attributes in light of Healthcare’s perpetually constrained resources.

An IBM Institute for Business Value study explains that data captured on blockchains can be shared in real time across a scalable group of individuals and institutions. “Every event or transaction is time-stamped and becomes part of a long chain, or permanent record, that can’t be tampered with after the fact,” according to the study report, which finds 16 percent of healthcare organizations ready to commercialize blockchain at scale in 2017.

Where will things go from here?

Room to grow

In practical terms, blockchain could be used in areas such as population health to aggregate patient and financial data that formerly would have been available only from separate sources such as health information exchanges and claims databases.

Further, blockchain’s ability to enable secure and irrevocable data exchange systems would provide “seamless access to historic and real-time data, while eliminating the burden and cost of data reconciliation,” explains Reenita Das, senior vice president of transformational healthcare at research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Micah Winkelspecht, founder and CEO of blockchain start-up Gem, characterizes blockchain as a tool for interoperability — in essence, an open-source protocol layer incorporating rules to which software can be written. “It’s basically like a language that all [participating] companies agree to speak in order to be able to interoperate with each other,” he adds. Unlike the current EHR-centric healthcare system, blockchain would be the “underlying fabric” for the entire continuum of care, “a decentralized, distributed, global data repository that’s basically shared and controlled by everyone,” he envisions.

Cross-industry philosophy

Related, in the mortgage industry, a similar foundational approach has experts believing in blockchain as an enabling technology empowering lenders to overcome current challenges in electronic processes.

Blockchain would be applied as a thin layer atop an existing document management system to effectively “freeze” a copy of the signed documentation, thereby proving it has never been altered and that the original document resides in its original location. Focus would shift from e-signature tools to blockchain as the core technology structure for compliance and document management — without requiring a completely reworked electronic process.

NetDirector recognizes ongoing and changing security needs in industries such as healthcare and mortgage banking. Companies on the front lines shouldn’t have to rewrite existing integrations or pay multiple vendors in their respective networks to operationalize individual system connections.

Within the healthcare ecosystem, NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange builds on a standard data model to map to HL7 or other data formats and achieve EHR interoperability while removing the bottlenecks of traditional interfacing. Such integrative technology holds the promise of making future security updates and landscape changes far more manageable.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Security in Data Migration, and When Not to Migrate

There’s no turning back on the cloud computing revolution. By 2020, more than 90 percent of data center traffic will be cloud traffic, according to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index forecast.

Separate analysis from 451 Research finds enterprise spending on hosting and cloud services up by 26 percent in 2017 over 2016, outpacing a 12 percent increase in total IT budgets during the same span. “Hosting and cloud services are becoming a focus of IT investment, via both new projects and the migration of existing workloads,” observes Liam Eagle, research manager at the firm.

In healthcare, 76 percent of new or existing workloads are moving to the cloud, in areas such as data archiving, backups/disaster recovery, back-office applications and server virtualization.

Some might even say the transition to cloud is happening too quickly. In fact, the simplicity of initiating cloud projects has raised eyebrows among industry observers — especially since protected health information (PHI) is at stake. “The ease of spinning up a cloud application can create, in and of itself, a risk,” says Shane Whitlatch, enterprise vice president at data security firm FairWarning. “Because cloud projects are easy to start, it’s also easy to just leave them there and not monitor them.”

Does he have a point?

Setting the record straight

Without a doubt, companies across all industries have made some missteps in migrating data to the cloud. In certain cases, organizations have viewed data migration as a one-time event rather a process that will likely be repeated over the years. Therefore, it’s important to analyze whether an IT infrastructure can hold up to the demands of a full-scale migration, reports HealthITInfrastructure.

Closer to home in healthcare, organizations often fail to assess data-quality issues before embarking on a migration. This might come into play, for example, when moving data from a legacy electronic health record (EHR) system to a new EHR application.

And while it’s certainly possible for a healthcare provider to fall victim to the scenario Whitlatch envisions (e.g., gathering PHI for research purposes and later abandoning that data outside established controls on a cloud-based platform), most organizations would avoid that type of vulnerability through due diligence. They recognize that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between cloud provider and customer. HIPAA’s Security Rule, for instance, applies in equal force to data protection whether the data resides in on-premise systems or in the cloud.

Additionally, above all other factors, healthcare organizations are concerned about adherence to regulatory requirements such as HIPAA when selecting a cloud services provider, according to a 2016 study conducted by HIMSS Analytics.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange, a cloud-based platform for exchanging data between healthcare entities, has been certified as HIPAA-compliant under audit by a third-party security and compliance solutions provider. This certification “strengthens the trust that our clients place in us to safely integrate their platforms and transform their data,” explains NetDirector CEO Harry Beisswenger.

For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.