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A nurse goes to Washington

By Stephanie Cracknell RN, MS, FNP-C, Clinical Advisor, Co-founder, US Medical IT on February 3, 2016

Filed under Health

Group of people smiling for a photo

As clinical advisor and co-founder of US Medical IT, I recently had the privilege of attending a Policy and Advocacy Trip meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Voices for Innovation (VFI) program. VFI is a Microsoft-supported technology community of several thousand members from across the country. The goal of the trip was to meet with lawmakers to bring attention to the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act), new legislation designed to protect email privacy in the cloud computing era.

When my husband and business partner asked me if I would like to attend with him, at first I was somewhat apprehensive about stepping out of my comfort zone as a nurse practitioner. As a registered nurse for the past 20 years, a nurse practitioner for the past 15, and a mother of two young children, my experience in the world of policy making is limited. However, I was excited about the opportunity to learn something new that I could bring back to our growing healthcare IT business. Ready for the challenge ahead, we joined Microsoft and 40 other VFI members this past October for a thought-provoking week.

Throughout the trip, I learned about the inner workings of our nation’s legislative system and how healthcare practitioners can affect change for the better.

Where the Magic HappenedBefore meeting with our elected officials, we participated in a training session at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center near the Capitol, so we were prepared to present and discuss our issues. We learned that the LEADS Act—introduced in February 2015 by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Dean Heller (R-NV)—is intended to strengthen privacy in the digital age and promote trust in technology while still equipping law enforcement agencies so they can protect public safety.

The most recent law regarding email privacy dates back to the 1980s and has been in desperate need of updating. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed into law in 1986 and was designed to protect the privacy of electronic communications. Among other things, the LEADS Act will require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to access the content of digital communications from cloud-computing service providers. It also will clarify the process for accessing digital content abroad.

As I participated in the group training sessions, it was clear that the major challenge faced by Microsoft and other technology companies is how to create a culture of trust with cloud technologies. This concern is even more acute for my company’s clientele, who possess extremely sensitive healthcare data. We recently documented on my company’s blog that 2015 was the Worst Year Yet for Healthcare-Related Cyber Attacks. Healthcare data is a valuable and growing target for hackers.

If Americans do not trust the technology providers, or trust that the government will enact laws necessary to protect their information, the full capability of cloud service technology services will not be realized. These benefits include flexibility, scalability, lower costs, and ease of access to data. Just as the healthcare industry is called on to stay current with emerging technologies through Meaningful Use requirements and HIPAA regulations, our government should also be held accountable to keep our laws current with the rapidly changing world of information technology.

Many electronic medical record software companies and healthcare facilities are currently cloud-based, and we expect this number to increase. As we continue to move forward with advances in cloud computing, consumer trust is more crucial than ever, because healthcare entities have the responsibility to protect patient health information and ensure security protocol to preserve this highly sensitive data.

IMG_8034During our time at the Capitol, I learned how local citizens can influence change at the national level. I was surprised at how relatively easy it was to schedule a meeting with elected officials from our home state of Texas, simply by emailing the offices of our senators and representatives. Within a few days, we had meetings scheduled with the senior legal staff from the offices of Senator Ted Cruz and Senator John Cornyn, as well as the legislative assistant for Representative Sam Johnson, who I was happy to hear was from our hometown of Allen, Texas.

The leaders of VFI were also able to secure a meeting with the chairman and members of the House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee. We met with them in the same room where the committee meets regularly to work on topics important to small businesses across the country. They welcomed us and each member told us how much they appreciate being able to hear directly from their constituents about matters of importance to them.

The Voices for Innovation Policy and Advocacy Trip truly was a thrilling experience for me and I would like to thank the VFI team for their hard work in putting it together. I encourage any of you who have an issue that you are passionate about in your field of expertise to step out of your comfort zone and consider getting involved, just like I did.

If the issue of privacy resonates with you, you can sign Voices for Innovation’s statement of support for the LEADS Act. You can also send a letter to your elected officials through the Voices for Innovation’s Action Center. If you’re interested in learning more about US Medical IT, visit their website at http://usmedicalit.com/

 

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