Cybersecurity in the VA’s Connected Health

Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to CyberChat with Sean Kelley on iTunes or PodcastOne.

The advancements in technology are allowing medical systems across the world to have a greater reach and to care for patients in areas that have been difficult to access in the future.  Most view this as a great enabler for every health care system and it is especially helpful for the Veteran Affairs Department. This month, Cyber Chat’s Host Sean Kelley sat down with Dr. Neil Evans, the chief officer for the Office of Connected Care in the Veterans Health Administration at the Veterans Affairs Department.  

Connected Health or Telehealth can mean many things to many people, but vans said: “at the simplest level it just means health at a distance. It’s allowing, in our case in the VA, veterans to connect with their health care teams using technology when they’re not face to face.” 

Advertisement

The Connected Health program at the VA assists them with access by getting patients access to health care or medical specialties that may not be accessible in the local community.  Similar to other settings, Telehealth improves accessibility by allowing the VA providers and patients to connect by video as well as improving the quality of healthcare by connecting patients with the health care provider who’s best suited to serve them. According to Evans, the veterans are very enthusiastic about using Telehealth “because it’s what helps them connect with the person who can help them with their health challenges.” 

So, what are the challenges with this approach? “With advances they’re also becomes greater risk right where things are no longer completely in the VA environment,” Evans said. The security of information and communication is absolutely critical and something the VA is constantly addressing.  

“It is imperative that VA does IT thoughtfully and that we make sure that that we are building a system that is secure and that protects the data and the information of the veterans,” Evans said.

One of the ways they are ensuring the security and protection of patient data is through the maturing of the ATO process. In addressing the Authority to Operation (ATO) process, he said “there is a clear path to answer the control and to provide for those controls.” The VA has a team in place that manages not only the ATO process, but reinforces the move towards continuous monitoring. According to  Evans, “the idea of AOT is really just a means to enforce good quality IT development.” 

When discussing mobile application in the VA, Evans highlights the VA Online Scheduling application and VA Video Connect. The VA Online Scheduling signifies the reason why they are in the business of mobile applications. “We’re doing mobile health to put tools in the hands of veterans to help them better manage their own health and provide the convenience of being able to book their appointment with VA providers from their mobile phone.”

“The VA Video Connect, announced at the White House in August, is a platform that allows patients and their VA providers to connect by video and have real-time video visits online”, Evans said. It provides encrypted video point-to-point video connection between a patient and their provider. Since its launch, the app has increased provider and patient virtual interaction drastically, but more specifically, “48,700 video sessions have been stood up by providers.” 

Takeaways:

  • VHA is in the business of delivering health care, priority number one is delivering health care and making sure that the VA is providing veterans access to health care
  • Telehealth is just delivering health at a distance
  • Telehealth gives patients access to health care or medical specialties that may not be available in the local community 
  • With the advancement of Telehealth, the VA is addressing the challenges of security
  • The ATO process has matured greatly at the VA 
  • VA Online Scheduling application and VA Video Connect are two mobile applications making significant impact in the VA