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OIG Confirms HCCIC Investigation, HHS’ Cyber Efforts Moving Forward

March 29, 2018
by Heather Landi
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In light of many published media reports, including a Healthcare Informatics article posted Monday, regarding an ongoing controversy over the reassignment of top cyber leaders at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the ongoing work of its Healthcare Cybersecurity Communications Integration Center (HCCIC), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has responded with an official statement confirming that there is an investigation involving the HCCIC.

An OIG spokesperson provided a statement via email: “The OIG has a general practice of neither confirming nor denying the existence of an investigation being conducted by our office. However, because information has come to light that suggests that the OIG was conducting an investigation involving the Healthcare Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (HCCIC), we are willing to acknowledge that an OIG investigation involving HCCIC is/was ongoing. We are not at liberty to provide any further details at this time.’

The statement comes after an almost seven-month-long controversy over HHS’ fledging cyber operations center and the ousting of the center’s top leaders last fall. According to multiple media reports back in November, the fledging HCCIC became the center of a rumored investigation into contracting irregularities and possible fraud allegations. An anonymous complaint was lodged, alleging contracting improprieties. HHS Deputy CISO Leo Scanlon was put on administrative leave back in September, and the center’s director, Maggie Amato, has since resigned. 

Scanlon and Amato allege they were targeted by disgruntled government employees and then retaliated against as whistleblowers.

The OIG statement does not offer any clarification as to whether the “HCCIC investigation” is focused on the allegations of contracting improprieties against Scanlon and Amato, or whether it’s referencing potential reprisals against whistleblowers.

New HHS CISO

As noted in the Healthcare Informatics article posted Monday, Janet Vogel, currently the deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS), will be moving over to take over the HHS Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role, replacing Chris Wlaschin, who announced he was stepping down for personal reasons.

An HHS spokesperson provided the following statement: “During the month of April, CMS Deputy CIO, Janet Vogel, will detail from CMS into the role of CISO at HHS. Janet brings thirty years of federal experience to the position with the last 16 years at CMS. Her broad spectrum of skills in information technology, information security, organizational change, acquisition, and risk mitigation will be key to transforming and expanding HHS’ cyber programs into the healthcare sector.”

Sources within HHS noted that Wlaschin, who recently informed HHS leadership of his desire to spend more time with his family, delivered real change to HHS’ cybersecurity programs, which Vogel will help operationalize and mature.

HHS leadership also contend that the department has made significant strides at improving cybersecurity over the last year with advancements that stem from the internal implementation of Einstein 3A and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation program.

In choosing Vogel, HHS reached out to the CMS to assist in this next phase given the agency’s ability to bring organizations together, and its expertise in citizen-focused services. Moving forward, CMS best practices for protecting high value systems and data will be expanded across HHS to enhance cyber risk mitigation practices, according to HHS.

According to HHS, contrary to concerns about the HCCIC’s work given the changes to the top leadership positions, the cybersecurity center continues to move forward in support of the HHS’ efforts to protect the healthcare and public health sector against potential cybersecurity information technology threats or vulnerabilities. The HCCIC regularly coordinates with DHS, the lead agency combatting cyber threats.

HCCIC is being implemented in two distinct phases. Phase One apparently demonstrated HCCIC’s initial operating capability as evidenced by HHS’s ability to effectively articulate, and communicate about, threats to the healthcare and public health sector such as WannaCry and NotPetya. HHS is currently in the second phase of implementation which entails incorporating lessons learned from those ransomware attacks, and engaging subject matter experts from its operating divisions, external agencies and consultants to ensure policies, processes, capabilities and communications are clearly defined.

There have also been reports that HHS plans to rebrand HCCIC, with the renamed organization launching later this year, and housed in HHS headquarters.

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Rasu Shrestha Leaving UPMC to Join Atrium Health as Chief Strategy Officer

December 18, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Industry thought leader Rasu Shrestha, M.D., formerly Chief Innovation Officer at the vast 40-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), is leaving Pittsburgh to join Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health has the new executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

For the past 11 years, Shrestha has held various roles at UPMC, including, most recently, executive vice president and chief innovation officer, responsible for driving UPMC’s innovation strategy. In addition to leading innovation at UPMC, Shrestha also served as executive vice president of UPMC Enterprises, the venture capital arm of UPMC.

According to a press release from Atrium Health, a 40-hospital health system previously named Carolinas HealthCare System, in his new role Shrestha will lead enterprise strategy, including planning and tactical direction for Atrium Health’s strategic roadmap. In addition, he will spearhead a renewed focus on innovation, launching new healthcare inventions, discoveries and ideas to benefit Atrium Health patients and the communities it serves.

Shrestha will officially join Atrium Health in February 2019, reporting directly to President and CEO Eugene Woods. He will take on the position formerly held by Carol Lovin, who was promoted to executive vice president and system chief of staff.

“It is our honor to welcome Dr. Rasu Shrestha into the Atrium Health family,” Atrium Health president and CEO Eugene Woods, said in a statement. “As Atrium Health looks ahead to how we can reimagine a brighter and bolder future for care, Dr. Shrestha will help us develop the strategy and innovation to bring health, hope and healing to more people.” 

A respected thought leader and visionary in the field of healthcare information technology, Shrestha was recognized as one of the “Top 20 Health IT Leaders Driving Change” and as a “Top Healthcare Innovator” by InformationWeek, according to the Atrium Health press release. In addition, he is chairman of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Innovation Committee, and co-chair of Health Datapalooza.

“I am awestruck by the ambitions of Atrium Health to fulfill their mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all,” Shrestha said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this incredibly talented team to forge ahead with meaningful strategies, partnerships and opportunities – and to support this organization’s commitment and dedication to its patients and communities.”

Shrestha announced the move to Atrium Health via Twitter Tuesday afternoon and also posted several comments on LinkedIn. “I find myself in a reflective mood, as I contemplate leaving the many teams I’ve had the honor of making an impact in, the culture that I’ve had the privilege of being able to help craft, and an organization I love, in a city my family and I have called home for the last 11 years since moving here from Southern California. I am humbled with the honor of having worked with some of the most brilliant leaders and doers I have met, and proud of the many accomplishments we have made as a team here at UPMC and across the industry,” Shrestha wrote. “It is this purpose-driven passion that will be a recurring theme, as we continue to cross paths and push ahead through the many challenges and opportunities.”

He remarked that he was drawn to the “human ambitions” of Atrium Health to “improve health, elevate hope and advance healing - for all.”

“What a remarkable place to start my next chapter forward. I know that when we put our hearts and minds together, anything is possible,” he wrote.

Shrestha received his medical degree from CCS University in India, completed his fellowship in informatics from the University of London and earned his MBA from the University of Southern California.

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Early Career Physicians, Pharmacists, Keen on Working in Tech, Survey Finds

December 18, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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A survey of 502 early career U.S. physicians and pharmacists revealed that 47 percent of these healthcare professionals are interested in working in the technology sector.

A LinkedIn survey, conducted in October, queried 502 physicians and pharmacists in the U.S. who completed their degrees within the last five years. The participants, all of whom have LinkedIn profiles, were chosen at random and reflect different specialties and years of experience.

Thirty percent of respondents said they were “somewhat interested” in working in tech, while 17 percent said they were “very interested.” Another 21 percent said they were “somewhat uninterested,” and 20 percent said they were neutral. Just 11 percent of respondents said they were “very uninterested.”

Participants were also asked to share their views on why they would or wouldn't consider working in the technology sector. Fifty-eight percent of respondents cited substance of the work, 57 percent said total compensation, 50 percent said working hours, and 49 percent said the impact of the work.

Notably, 85 percent of survey respondents said that having peers with their background represented at tech companies could lead to innovation for “traditional” industries.

Another 48 percent of respondents said the technology sector has an allure that makes it difficult for other industries to compete for top talent. Meanwhile, 47 percent said that those who move into tech from a different industry are more interested in “big impact.”

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The Modern Healthcare CIO, CMO, and CTO

December 10, 2018
by Lori Williams, Industry Voice, vice president of fulfillment, Gigster
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Disruption in the healthcare space comes primarily from the expansion of data’s role in the industry, and the healthcare C-suite’s familiarity with that expansion will help drive company and industry success

For the healthcare C-suite executive, the industry has never been more complex—nor has it ever contained so much potential. Emerging technologies mixed with political uncertainty has created an environment where incredible amounts of healthcare data are revolutionizing how patient care is handled, but patients remain uncertain about the future of their own health. With better data and the means to draw insights from it, healthcare CIOs, CMOs and CTOs are in a position to help address patients’ uncertainties and make hospitals and clinics more accessible and effective than ever before.

Here’s a look at how the role of the modern healthcare CIO, CMO and CTO is changing:

The Modern Healthcare CIO
The modern healthcare CIO’s role has evolved to become more innovative. No longer a title reserved strictly for engineers and IT professionals, today’s healthcare CIOs are focused on information science instead of simply setting up network infrastructure or providing back-end support. The trend towards a more data-centric role began as hospitals rolled out electronic health records, equipping individuals with better access to healthcare provider data. Through enterprise data warehousing, CIOs are becoming masters of data management, governance and predictive analytics, and passing along the many benefits of those knowledge bases to patients.

The Modern Healthcare CMO
The confusing healthcare landscape makes the role of a healthcare CMO more necessary than ever before. Thanks to ongoing regulatory changes, uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and shifting consumer expectations for on-demand services, healthcare CMOs are responsible for helping patients navigate their way through a complex and opaque industry. As patients continue to assume the role of consumers, carrying out comparison shopping as they would for any other industry, CMOs must be adept in crafting a healthcare provider’s brand and messaging.

At the same time, CMOs must also ensure that healthcare providers offer a modern online experience, ensuring websites are mobile-optimized and social media accounts are generating engagement. This also means CMOs need to help move marketing efforts into the 21st century, transitioning away from direct mail or billboards towards digital marketing and CRM tools. Because if they don’t, there are plenty of med tech startups that will promptly eat into their market share.

The Modern Healthcare CTO
Unlike healthcare CTOs of the past who remained siloed off from the rest of the organization, today’s modern healthcare CTO is fully engaged with healthcare providers and their technology stacks, utilizing new software and hardware to improve daily workflows. The CTO is enabling the transition to patient-oriented self-service operations, enabling patients to carry out administrative tasks like scheduling appointments or refilling prescriptions over the internet. Because medical data is often stored in a variety of different sources, it’s critical for the CTO to be able to keep these systems interoperable with one another. For hospitals riddled with legacy software, CTOs should expect to continue employing middleware solutions to bridge the gap between old and new.

Members of the healthcare industry C-suite have the power to transform lives, and the CIO, CMO and CTO have roles that directly affect a provider’s ability to carry out positive change. With better data from the CTO’s tech stack, the CIO can use better analytics to help providers determine the best solutions for their patients, marketed to consumers by the CMO through modern platforms in clear, easy-to-understand language.

Lori Williams currently serves as Gigster’s vice president of fulfillment. Prior to joining Gigster, Lori was the general manager for Appririo.


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