How tech companies can step up after latest ransomware attack

Lloyd McCoy Jr.By Lloyd McCoy Jr., DOD manager

Most of us are still reeling from the turmoil brought on by the WannaCry malware last weekend. While most of you reading were not directly affected, the global scale of the ransomware attack cannot be ignored. Even though our federal, state and local governments were spared the brunt of the attacks, they are, by no means, immune to the dangers posed by ransomware.

Some sectors of government are more vulnerable than others and so the IT industry, particularly those companies specializing in anti-ransomware solutions, should be aware of these distinctions.

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What to watch now that we have a federal budget

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Last Friday, as the rain pounded the Washington, D.C. region, my colleague, Tom O’Keefe, and I huddled in a recording studio to chat with Mark Amtower on federal IT trends for his Amtower Off-Center show.

The 45-minute segment was posted here yesterday. Here are highlights of what we think the IT industry needs to know now that there’s a budget in place for the rest of the year.

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3 trends to watch at the VA in 2017

As the only civilian agency with a new FY17 appropriation, the Department of Veterans Affairs would have been a high-profile sales target even without the attention paid to it on the campaign trail. However, between reorganizations, new programs and budgetary tug-of-war contests, it can be difficult to figure out where exactly you need to sell.

Here are three trends to watch in the next year as the administration’s priorities take shape. You can hear more on the department in my recent webinar, IT Sales Opportunities at the VA: Everything You Need to Know but Were Afraid to Ask:

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Reprograming the IPO Could Create New Opportunities with Electronic Health Records

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

The future of the Interagency Program Office (IPO) is up in the air. Originally designated to develop an integrated electronic health record (iEHR) between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, the office used to boast a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, with the decision earlier this year by the Department of Defense to pursue its own EHR, the buzz seems to be that most of the IPO’s budget is being reprogrammed. We continue to hear from both DOD and VA officials that there is still the goal of having an integrated and interoperable EHR, but expect both DOD and VA to pursue their own solutions at this point, while maintaining an open dialogue about how the disparate systems can still work together.

At AFCEA Bethesda’s Health IT Day in mid-November Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Chief Medical Informatics Officer at VA, discussed one of the likely solutions to the data sharing challenges between the VA and DOD with an update to VA’s current EHR system termed VistA Evolution. VistA Evolution is relying on an agile development schedule to roll out new interfaces and applications in short development timeframes in the hope of providing “disruptive evolution” to the overall program suite by introducing new technologies. VistA is a legacy system that the VA has relied upon for quite some time, but it operates off a fundamental architecture that can be updated to meet many of the needs of today, including enhancing interoperability with DOD systems, and the only barrier to updating VistA seemed to be cost. With money now freed from a potentially defunct IPO, expect the VA to move ahead on an aggressive update schedule, with several contracts to work on VistA already awarded.

Dr. Cullen is veryiEHR Blog conscious of how the next stage in the development of the applications and databases that handle health information will be handled. Health information on VA systems remains siloed and while the Department has made progress addressing this challenge, it seemingly pales in comparison to the task of being able to interface with DOD medical systems. This may be the future of the IPO, to act as more of a governance and policy agent to determine the standards that the VA and DOD EHRs have to operate off of, rather than as a functional office that actually undertakes development opportunities.

This reprogramming could open up new opportunities for COTS vendors who can provide CRM solutions, health data and records management, and middleware and SOA tools to ensure the differing systems can actually talk to each other. These joint efforts to strengthen interoperability remain high-visibility and have a lot of support on the Hill, with language in the 2014 VA spending that would actually mandate that DOD and VA operate off of one EHR. Expect the Departments to keep this in mind when pursuing their solutions in the event that the law requiring a single EHR actually passes, however unlikely that may prove to be.

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