3 Keys to Securing Health Data

Audie Hittle

Audie Hittle

DoD and VA healthcare providers are responsible for managing and protecting some of the most sensitive data, which unfortunately makes them a valuable target for hackers. Patient information often includes addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, and credit card information – in other words, an identify thief’s idea of heaven. And this personally identifiable information (PII) is becoming more and more vulnerable. The sobering reality is that healthcare data breaches are on the rise, with recent research showing a 138% increase since 2012. It’s an issue that extends beyond the commercial sector, as our nation’s Federal health organizations face the same challenges in securing the PII data of our nation’s servicemen and women.

Data protection can be an enormous IT challenge, and regulations like HIPAA and HITECH help ensure best practices. To comply with the standards and ultimately protect sensitive health data, Federal and military health agencies require the latest data protection tools, particularly as more and more systems move to the public cloud. Below are three key areas that organizations should be thinking about as they embark on health data strategies:

1. Encryption: Critical to any healthcare IT environment, safe harbor laws require an organization to prove that its devices were encrypted at the time of a data breach. And it doesn’t just apply to devices. Smart agencies will make sure that information is protected from the data center all the way to mobile phones. In addition, they’ll ensure that they are using the correct encryption approach to address a specific requirement, rather than a generalized solution

2. Disaster Recovery: Organizations should also prepare for outages – whether caused by a natural disaster or human error – to avoid government fines and penalties. To comply with HIPAA and HITECH regulations, organizations must be able to fully recover from an outage within a matter of hours, not days. Virtualizing IT environments is a great way to enable continuous availability because it allows for easy mobility from one physical system to another. EMC’s VPLEX, for example, is a continuous availability and data mobility platform that enables mission-critical applications to remain up and running during a variety of planned and unplanned downtime scenarios, even in the event of a data center site failure

3. Backup: Lastly, consider a disk-based, centralized backup system for better control of your data and a greater chance of meeting regulatory requirements. HIPAA and HITECH require entities to store backup copies of data offsite, which can be challenging for many. And with the digital universe expected to grow by 40% between 2012 and 2020, military health organizations must be able to back up all of this data within a reasonable timeframe. One proactive tool is EMC’s Isilon Data Lake, enabling agencies to better manage, protect, and analyze large pools of unstructured data

For a strong HIPAA and HITECH compliant health IT security strategy, these three key areas will lay the foundation. While these standards may pose unique challenges for different organizations, the core of this is simple – protect the sensitive data of our servicemen and women and their families. For more information, check out our recent whitepaper on the topic.

EMC Named Top Workplace in D.C.

Karen DelPrete

Karen DelPrete

Congratulations to the Washington, D.C.-based EMC team – The Washington Post recently named EMC the #8 Top Workplace for large companies in the D.C. area.  As Sarah Halzack recently stated in The Washington Post, “Washington area employers are striving to build the kind of workplace culture that makes top-notch employees want to stick around for the long haul.”

For this inaugural report, The Washington Post invited 1,672 companies to participate and surveyed employees at 244 of those companies to capture employees’ thoughts on where the world of work is headed in the next few years.

EMC was among the 150 companies receiving the highest marks from their employees, ranking as the #8 Top Workplace in the large company category.

In my experience working at EMC over the past several years, I’ve seen our team’s commitment to supporting government missions – their energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to finding new ways to do things better.  I’ve also seen how well EMC supports each of us – with excellent benefits, training, and growth opportunities.  I’m very proud of EMC’s community commitment – supporting the USO-Metro and giving us each an opportunity to get involved and make a difference, serving our veterans.

Dan Dougherty, head of EMC’s Federal Division, accepted the award on behalf of EMC at the June 19th awards ceremony.  The inaugural special report was printed in the newspaper’s June 22 business section.

As an employee that regularly works in the D.C. region, I think I speak for the rest of the EMC employees in the area in saying that we are proud to receive this award, and look forward to continuing to serve those in the Washington, D.C. region.

EMC Top Place to Work

What is the future of Federal healthcare?

Audie Hittle

Audie Hittle

Fitbits, FuelBands, and Jawbones, oh my. These words would have been meaningless a few years ago, but today, they represent some of the latest consumer technologies we’re using to track everything from steps to sleep. Wearable technology provides us with more insight into our health than ever before, giving us more incentives to take care of ourselves – whether that means getting in an extra hour of sleep or going for a longer run. These mobile tools also collect mountains of valuable data, and providers across the private and public sector are brainstorming ways to analyze that data to provide better patient care, improve preventative care, and even manage population health.

EMC recently teamed up with MeriTalk to study the impact of wearable technology and mobile devices among healthcare-focused Federal agencies, and results showed that nearly 60% believe Big Data will be crucial to fulfilling their agency objectives. As DoD and VA healthcare providers are beginning to explore Big Data’s potential, they’re using it to tackle everything from clinical trial data management to cost containment. Organizations are also looking at mHealth, or the use of mobile and wireless devices, as a way to improve patient care and communicate with them more effectively.

Over the past five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken the lead in this space and is a great example for other agencies interested in exploring mHealth. For instance, its TXT4Tots program gives parents and caregivers of children aged 1-5 information on nutrition and physical activity, and its Office of Minority Health offers live video-streaming of clinician courses on managing diabetes.

So what is the future of healthcare, you ask? Two words: Big Data. The possibilities are truly endless, and I’m excited to see what developers and our Federal healthcare community will come up with next. If you’d like to read more about this topic, I invite you to check out my colleague Guy Churchward’s recent blog post on the topic.

Recognizing Federal Superheroes

Karen DelPrete

Karen DelPrete

It’s that time of year again – summer blockbusters are hitting the theaters.  Superhero movies are a staple of the summer genre, and it looks like Spider Man, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy will be making appearances on the silver screen this summer.  But people who tirelessly and selflessly use their talents and abilities for good aren’t just in movies – they work among us.  They are the Federal IT leaders who use technology to bring about positive change.

The 2014 MeriTalk Merit Awards program, underwritten by EMC, aims to honor these leaders who perform extraordinary work in general public service, Big Data, cloud computing, cyber security, data center, or mobility/telework.

It’s time to give Feds the recognition they deserve – if you know a hard-working, mission-focused IT leader in the Federal government, nominate them for a 2014 Merit Award – nominations are now being accepted – the submission deadline is Monday, August 4, 2014.  For more information, and to nominate a Federal leader, please visit www.meritalk.com/merit.

Once you nominate a Federal leader for a Merit Award, take the Superhero IT Persona quiz to unlock your alter ego – www.meritalk.com/merit.  You may be the superhero we’ve been waiting for.

The Intelligence Community Runs on (Shared) Data

General John Custer, USA (Retired)

General John Custer, USA (Retired)

By John M. Custer, Director, Federal Missions and Programs, EMC

The intelligence community (IC) runs on data – from information on cyber threats to details on emerging political unrest. National security is about connecting the dots to ensure the safety of millions of Americans, and the 17 agencies that make up the IC must be integrated in how they collect, store, and analyze this data. Putting fences around information greatly limits its potential, and the IC is making huge strides to break down silos and facilitate better information sharing.

By making information easily-sharable, agencies can collaborate more quickly, speeding up the process of making informed decisions. Say, for instance, that one department is storing a video of an individual involved in a crime, while another has a fraudulent passport naming a wanted suspect. By putting together these pieces of the puzzle, analysts can much more easily identify that person and move forward with the investigation.

The government recognizes this need for shared information and is tackling the challenge on the IT front via the Enhanced Solutions for the Information Technology Enterprise (E-SITE) initiative. The goal is to upgrade system architectures, project management processes and software development to reach new levels of information-sharing and collaboration.

But the E-SITE contract points to a larger shift that’s currently taking place across the IC. Broader and more integrated technology approaches are being pursued under the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) strategy, which started in 2012 and aims to improve integration, information sharing, and information safeguarding. An overarching IT architecture is emerging that no one could have imagined 10 years ago, and holds incredible promise in terms of both mission effectiveness and cost savings. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers recently said that the intelligence community has made huge strides in this area and that agencies are working much more closely together. He also noted that this integration will continue to be a top priority for both himself and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

This transformation has enormous potential for national security, as improved information-sharing means more pieces of the puzzle can connect to identify and thwart security threats. But looking more granularly, the ICITE strategy also allows for heterogeneous storage environments, and can fast-forward an agency’s path to the cloud by opening up the possibility of software-defined and virtualized storage.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is already releasing an architecture based on this framework, and EMC looks forward to helping agencies transition to a more open, collaborative environment that promotes information sharing.