By Brita Van Fossen, Editorial Assistant
Last year, Verizon Business released a cloud-based health information exchange (HIE) to the public. Shortly after, the company rolled out free medical identity credentials to 2.3 million doctors, nurses and medical personnel in the U.S. Now, the company is furthering its commitment to health IT by releasing an updated version of its HIE platform, dubbed Verizon Universal Identity Services (UIS) for health care.
Keeping up with a prominent trend in the health care industry, especially among electronic health record (EHR) systems, the new version is available in a mobile format, compatible with the Apple Inc. iOS, Google Inc. Android and Research in Motion Ltd. BlackBerry platforms. The smartphone-enabled platform provides unlimited accessibility and cuts back on costs associated with purchase and training, since most people already own smartphones and are familiar with them.
Other important additions include the ID Message Center application and the implementation of digital signatures. Combined, these give physicians the ability to log in remotely and securely, track activity and sign important patient documents, such as treatment plans and discharge orders. With the addition of the digital signatures, UIS now meets the requirements for e-prescribing controlled substances set by both the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Verizon aims to provide an easy-to-use HIE platform to let physicians increase the amount of time they spend interacting with patients. Additionally, the company emphasizes security, with multiple measures to verify the identity of those logging in. For example, authentication blocks are automatically employed if there is suspicious activity, such as a doctor logging in from two sides of the globe within an hour time span.
Sam Bastia, general manager of strategy at Verizon, says the system helps avoid fraud by essentially verifying that “the person you’re talking to is indeed the person you’re talking to.” Additionally, he says, UIS can serve as an important support tool in a larger series of connected health care systems.
Developing such technologies will be the focus of the recently announced partnership between Verizon and Duke University, which brings together the influence of the Verizon network and the research and project management expertise of Duke. Specifically, the joint venture is aimed at developing and providing access to innovative integrated health care solutions.
Bastia and Kevin Schulman, M.D., the director of health sector management at Duke, will lead the partnership.
Citing “inconsistent quality and high cost” in the current health care system, Schulman says the opportunity to work with Verizon — given the scale of its network, its diversity of business offerings and a client base that “touch[es] one-third of the [U.S.] population” — will ultimately improve quality and reduce costs. Additionally, he views the relationship as one not confined to just Verizon and Duke, but one that can incorporate the unfunded or unrealized ideas of others in academia.
Bastia believes Verizon and Duke can marry their strengths in order to create an “advantage for the average American” and provide the foundation necessary to effectively ensure change. So far, he says, the collaboration has provided “a heck of a lot more” opportunities than obstacles.