Verizon unveils health data security management, consulting programs

Health data security management tools from Verizon Business aim to give providers a secure move to EHR, upping productivity and protecting information.

Verizon Business hopes its newly formed Verizon Connected Health Care Solutions practice group, which offers a new data security management program and suite of IT consulting services, will help large providers simplify a secure move to electronic medical records (EMR).

Sold through the Connected Health Care practice group, the Security Management Program: Healthcare (SMP) is designed to help larger providers assess the strength of their existing data security management practices. Using an online dashboard, executives can track compliance efforts against multiple federal and health-care-specific regulations and guidelines, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA; ISO/IEC 27002:2005; and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

"We're taking the information we've collected from the enterprise and reporting it against, not just health care [standards] but also related standards," said Claudio Scarabello, manager of security product marketing at Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon, which already provides health care organizations with such services as wireless and hardwire communications, virtual private networks, and optical networking.

Data security management through SMP, Professional Services

Information security, of course, is a major concern for  providers. And it's a growing challenge, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. In 2008, there were 97 publicly reported health care data breaches, resulting in 7.3 million compromised records -- or more than 20% of the total number of 35.7 million records. In 2007, there were 64 reported health care breaches, the resource center found.

The SMP is designed for larger health care organizations that have a data center significant enough to warrant its own security, backup and power generation, Scarabello said. 

"That may be a group that has as low as 500 critical data servers, [or] it could be much bigger," Scarabello said. "It really depends on their emphasis on reporting compliance status and their desire to be sufficient with the limited budgets they have."

The Connected Health Care group's offering includes a suite of IT consulting services for organizations that need to design and implement safe data-security management practices for sharing information and storing data. These services include credentialing, certification and assessment, and validation, all of which are based on industry standards created by the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST).  That alliance is a consortium of health care, business, technology and information organizations that formed to propel the electronic flow of information through health care providers. Verizon Business is a qualified certifier and high assessor within HITRUST, said Omar Khawaja, manager of Security Professional Services at Verizon.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 charged the health care industry with implementing EMRs as a way to save money, improve access to data and enhance patient care. But security concerns make practitioners large and small leery of taking this dramatic step, Khawaja said.

"Their biggest hesitation in migrating to electronic health care records from paper records is security. It's much harder to make copies of paper-based records, whereas with electronic records you don't even have to be on-site to steal those records," Khawaja said. "SMP and HITRUST enable that change, the modernization of change and the move to electronic health records. If you implement these controls, you don't have to worry about the transition to electronic records."

Health care organizations also are starting to realize the positive effect of EMR on productivity, patient care and data access. By eschewing the fax machine, for example, users no longer have to print, sign, fax and retransmit a document. "In a bustling clinic where you have patients coming into the office, that is a time savings right there," Khawaja said.

"If health care records are digitized," Khawaja added, "I as the doctor do not need to make sure I know every single aspect of your history. You reduce patient visits, improve care and improve cost."

Better care ahead through information security management

The SMP is only part of the projected offerings from Verizon Connected Health Care Solutions. Verizon plans to expand its options to such health care organizations as hospitals, medical providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies and life science firms.

"If health care records are digitized, I as the doctor do not need to make sure I know every single aspect of your history. You reduce patient visits, improve care and improve cost."

Omar Khawaja, manager, Security Professional Services, Verizon

Other health care data-security management concentrations for Verizon include:

  • Telemedicine for rural medicine, patient monitoring, and remote intensive care unit and department management.
  • Health care mobility to address mobile care force management, remote access to information and charge capture.
  • Health care information management for infrastructure services, payer contact services and EMR
  • Health information exchange.
  • Picture archiving and communication systems, or PACS.

"We're taking the breadth of offerings we have in Verizon, and we're one by one looking at them through the lens for health care, making sure they're applicable to the health care environment," Khawaja said.

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