Success Story

NIST Leads Effort to Advance Medical Records Management


While there is no dispute over the potential benefits of electronic health records (EHR), including improved quality of care, saving lives, and speeding up delivery of medical care, the sharing of information opens the door to confidentiality and privacy concerns.

Patients want control over who is looking at their health information. Assurance of patient privacy is a key element in widespread acceptance of EHR.

With the backing of the technology transfer program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Virtual Global, Inc.,

of Morgantown, West Virginia, a provider of software and platform solutions, developed a promising solution to significantly improve privacy within records management software applications.

Virtual Global received funding from the NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Phases 1 (a feasibility study) and 2 (research and development), and obtained an exclusive license for a NIST patent for role-based workflow (RBW).

The NIST patent provides an algorithm that can be built into a larger piece of software and is designed to control access to sensitive information, such as medical records. Inventor John Barkley believes that this software provides dramatically improved security and privacy to patients by solving the problem of overly broad access to patient information. Virtual Global integrated the NIST invention into HITPlatformTM to demonstrate that it works, and the tools are now available for others to use.

Many current EHR systems allow anyone who has access to patient records to look up any record, even if the user is not involved in the patient’s case.

To fully protect patient privacy, only relevant portions of specific records need to be available to designated staff members. Virtual Global’s HITplatformTM utilizes the NIST RBW algorithm to manage and control privileged access to electronic records on a need-to-know basis.

It gives healthcare workers temporary access to customized views of relevant records necessary to complete their current task.

HITplatformTM is an open-platform online toolkit for quickly building core EHR functions and implementing custom solutions for a variety of healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. EHR vendors or federal agencies may also use RBW separately for their special needs.

HITPlatformTM markedly enhances the confidentiality of patient records and is a viable alternative to other high-cost EHR systems.

According to Virtual Global CEO Cary Landis, “Role-based Workflow is a monumental advancement in patient privacy. It protects against potential abuse while maintaining efficiency. It’s also about continuing to steadily apply forward-thinking, and Role-based Workflow fits that bill with its ability to help prevent the types of informational security lapses that have caused embarrassing data leakages.”