Case study: L.A. health alerts don't miss a beat

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services bioterrorism IT coordinator David Cardenas fields and distributes about a dozen serious health alerts to physicians, hospitals and response agencies and must ensure the flow of such sensitive information reaches the right people, quickly and securely.

Each month bioterrorism IT coordinator David Cardenas fields and distributes about a dozen serious health alerts to physicians, hospitals and response agencies within the jurisdiction of the 10 million-resident Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. At least two can be considered critical outbreaks.

It could be an infectious disease brought in by a tourist or a threat posed by bioterrorists. Regardless, Cardenas must ensure the flow of such sensitive information reaches the right people, quickly and securely. He also must be sure it doesn't leak to the wrong outlets and cause a panic.

To keep such data secure, the nation's second largest health care system this spring rolled out role-based messaging technology from San Diego startup MIR3 that supports the Los Angeles health department's distributed network and validates users within the collaborative nature of health alert networks.

"Physicians and other health care providers need to know they can send us information on their patients, and it's going to be a secure transmission," explains Cardenas, who oversees security for the county's Bioterrorism Preparednesss and Response Unit and Acute Communicable Disease Control.

Like other messaging solutions from competitors like DCC, Envoy World Wide and Enera, MIR3's INlogicPRO provides voice and text alerts over a variety of devices and communication channels. Using simple steps, the company says, an administrator can reach a level of granularity that automatically determines how calls are channeled, to which devices and under what circumstances.

Built into INlogicPRO and its ASP-based alternative, INlogicNOW, is 128-bit SSL encryption for Web access to an intuitive GUI that sets roles used to send alerts. Senders and receivers also must use PINs during the messaging process for further protection. Additionally, the role-based access management system on the console assigns rights and privileges to different user types to help prevent information leakage.

Cardenas says his department will use both the server-based INlogicPRO, which is placed behind a firewall, and the host-based INlogicNOW as a backup for redundancy and message load balancing within his Windows-based network.

All these features are designed to secure information as it flows to and from Cardenas's unit, where, he says, it's especially important that each user is validated. "If the information path is violated, it could spell big trouble," he adds.

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