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White House CIO warns health CIOs to beware the internet of things

In keynote at CHIME16 Fall CIO Forum conference of healthcare CIOs, White House CIO Tony Scott says they should be wary of the internet of things and focus on cybersecurity.

PHOENIX -- In a digitized, interconnected world, be careful about with whom and what you connect, White House CIO Tony Scott told an audience of healthcare CIOs.

Interoperability may not be as commonplace in health IT as it is in government and the manufacturing and business communities Scott worked in before becoming the third White House CIO in 2015.

Even so, Scott warned in a keynote at the CHIME16 (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) Fall CIO Forum at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge resort, that interoperability now can be dangerous.

Witness the massive denial-of-service attacks of October 2016 on a New Hampshire-based internet service provider that were launched, apparently unbeknownst to their owners, from devices connected to the internet of things.

"I can interoperate with you, but should I?" said Scott, who was trained as a lawyer and worked in CIO roles for Microsoft, VMware and GM before President Barack Obama appointed him White House CIO. "Is that thing I'm hooking up to, connecting to safe? Is it reliable? Is it what it represents itself to be? Or is it masquerading as something?"

"There's a whole set of questions that now one really needs to ask with the cybersecurity lens in mind," Scott said, adding that on the positive front there are plenty of new security technologies to help with that process. "There's no really easy way to bubble-wrap or air-wrap around old technology to do that work."

I can interoperate with you, but should I? Is that thing I'm hooking up to, connecting to safe? Is it reliable? Is it what it represents itself to be? Or is it masquerading as something?
Tony ScottWhite House CIO

The CHIME16 Fall CIO Forum was the healthcare CIO group's 25th annual full-scale conference. The gathering drew some 450 CIOs and IT professionals from across the country, as well as another 400 or so vendors and consultants looking to do business or forge business relationships.

As with other healthcare CIO and health IT conferences in recent years, cybersecurity worries -- and opportunities -- were uppermost in many attendees' minds. So was the advent of value-based reimbursement in the form of MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015) for physicians, and value-based purchasing and bundled payments for hospitals.

Analytics and cognitive computing were also hot topics, CIOs and other event-goers said.

Another keynoter, TV celebrity (of Shark Tank fame) and cybersecurity businessman Robert Herjavec said he's asked at Hollywood parties these days things like 'I've got these pictures on the Apple Cloud, is there a chance they can be breached?' "

"Yes, there's a big chance it can be breached," Herjavec said with a rueful laugh as he entertained a packed post-breakfast hall at the well-appointed Arizona desert resort.

One CHIME16  participant, David Chou, chief information and digital officer at The Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., told SearchHealthIT that he thinks most healthcare providers and their CIOs "are not that data-driven."

"They still trust their gut," Chou said.

But he said more and more hospitals, including his, are using telehealth technologies to provide what he calls "virtual care" to people outside of the physical hospital's walls. In doing so, they are taking part in the growing consumerization of healthcare along with urgent care clinics and the "minute clinics" of big pharmacy chains.

John Lynn, founder of the health IT blog network, said what stood out for him this year at the annual gathering of healthcare CIOs "is the growing importance of the data infrastructure of healthcare as we move to value-based care."

"The active CIO is becoming more and more influential, and CHIME is a hotbed of that kind of innovative and powerful CIO," Lynn said.

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