VA to allow clinicians to access cloud applications

Doctors and other clinicians at Veterans Affairs Department will soon have access to online cloud-based tools such as Google Docs and Yahoo Calendar.

The VA is creating a secure portal that would authenticate the users and allow access to several popular commercial cloud-based applications, according to Roger Baker, the department's assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO.

Baker said in a press call July 25 the goal is to allow access commercial cloud applications from recognizable brands such as Amazon and Google. He declined to name the specific applications to be made available in the VA, but sharing documents on Google Docs and sharing of scheduling information on Yahoo Calendar are known to be popular applications among health care clinicians.

“This is for clinicians who are looking for tools,” Baker said. “Our clinicians, in looking for tools to better do their job, have found ways of doing things like shift hand off and other tools that are easier to use and more broadly available from cloud service providers."


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The tools would be accessed through a VA portal that allows for authentication, and any data to be stored from the cloud applications would be stored in a VA-dedicated secure information storage area, he said.

“We have found a good way to provide these tools without any development, which allows users to use these tools,” Baker said.

The services to be provided through commercial clouds are first likely to be document storage and information-sharing and collaboration tools, he added.

Providing VA workers secure access to commercial cloud applications is expected to address the problem of VA-affiliated doctors and care providers linking to clouds on their own iPhones and other devices and, in some cases, storing or accessing sensitive patient information in unauthorized applications. The VA has noted several infractions of that nature in its monthly breach reports to Congress.

Baker previously has explained that those problems are likely to continue because the commercial cloud tools are sometimes easier and more effective to use than the VA’s software.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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