The Security Measure Dedication of the Campus Health Service

June 3, 2024

A discovery series on the diversity and uniqueness of technology services at UArizona

Campus Health Building

In recent years, universities are seeing unique challenges with students. According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Health, 73% of students encounter a mental health crisis during their college years. College is a formative time of students’ lives, shaping their futures and allowing them to gather valuable experiences. However, that does not mean it is a time without stress. Coping with academic pressure, separation from families, and the imposter syndrome that can come from peers and social media plays a large role in what is being nationally dubbed the College Mental Health Crisis. Mental and physical health are major components of college for staff and students, and the university’s Campus Health Service (CHS) is paramount in addressing these issues and is a trusted center in keeping students and staff safe and shifting them to the path of healing.

Mike Resnick, director of IT for CHS, knows that his team bears the weight of great responsibility, and addresses the needs of students and staff with three concepts in mind: immediacy, security, and confidentiality “Campus Health, now more than ever, is necessary for the university, and the supporting CHS IT department is a critical component”. With the sensitivity surrounding the many reasons students and staff visit CHS, it’s important each person and their information be treated with absolute care and precision. “We are the ones responsible for protecting the privacy of all the data and making it accessible to staff to be able to provide services efficiently”. 

Security, resiliency, and availability of the university’s infrastructure and data is extremely important in providing accessible and quality healthcare and protecting the privacy of students’ and staff’s healthcare records. Not only does CHS meet the rigorous requirements of the university’s information security policies and FERPA Treatment Record regulations, but they also maintain AAAHC accreditation and HIPAA compliance, which adds a considerable degree of security, policy, and procedural requirements. 

There are obvious reasons why protecting patient data is important – unsecure data poses risks to university information and reputation and securing patient data essential by law. While both of those points are important, there’s an additional reason that isn’t as broadly known: Patient data is some of the most sought-after data in the black market. When placed in the wrong hands, patient data can be used to blackmail, intimidate, and mentally torment patients, and it’s the CHS IT team’s responsibility to ensure the data is as secure as possible, eliminating this grave possibility. 

The data isn’t just seen as numbers and information to this team. The team sees the students and staff behind the information. “We’re not just dealing with technology,” stated Resnick. “We are dealing with students’ lives during formative years. Many times, they are coming to us during their most vulnerable time. The patient health data needs to be protected, and that’s our commitment.”

The CHS IT team focuses on a robust variety of initiatives, but much of their work is in managing the Electronic Health Record System (EHR). The university’s EHR system is a vendor-provided system currently being used by over 300 colleges and universities around the country. This system is the largest player in the university and college health space, designed specifically for managing electronic medical and mental health records for colleges and universities. 

Because of the sensitive information CHS is responsible for, they have a strong commitment to crisis planning, adding yet another level of safety to student and staff health information. “To maintain maximum up-time, allow for rapid recovery in a disaster, and secure our backups, we run a highly available and fault-tolerant virtualization cluster, as well as multi-site, clustered network attached storage,” stated Resnick. “We replicate our backups to multiple on-site and cloud locations, including utilizing WORM (write-once read many) storage, which prevents re-writing of data, so that bad actors cannot use ransomware to hold our backups hostage.”

In IT, we live in a digital world. But some healthcare offices across the United States are not fully digital and taking advantage of automated processes. Today, there are still many doctor’s offices and medical facilities that require patients to fill out their information via paper form that is then submitted to the front desk or doctor. The risks of using paper data can be catastrophic including mismanagement/misplacement of papers, data input errors during the transcribing process, and much more. The CHS IT team knew that to be successful and deliver for patients during their times of need, a fully digitized process was necessary. 

“Our team’s focus is on maintaining the security and integrity of the data while identifying how we can help introduce new technologies that could make it more efficient and easier,” stated Resnick. For a better experience and more security, iPads and QR codes are available as part of the check-in process. By digitizing the process, the team has alleviated the potential for many mistakes, thus keeping patient information secure and correct. 

The team relies heavily on automation for efficiency, security, and responsiveness. A software deployment and inventory management system has been used since 2017. “The product has proven so simple for our sysadmins to utilize that it has allowed us to not only automate tasks from in-place OS upgrades, common software deployments, and patching to creating numerous custom automation solutions for the health clinic to improve our efficiency and security,” stated Resnick. “It has also allowed us to implement rapid issue resolution which is critical in an active health clinic where time is of the essence.”

Getting sick, injured, or needing mental health support is inevitable for nearly everyone. If you visit CHS for support, you will be counseled or treated with incredible speed and your data will be safe and secure thanks to the dedicated and passionate IT team of CHS, prioritizing people first. 

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