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Increasing Access to Mental Health Care with Digital Technology

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The pandemic sharply increased the demand for behavioral health services, and digital solutions proved to be a popular solution. This article explores changing consumer preferences and how care delivery organizations can use digital technology to support patients seeking mental health care.

digital mental health care

Demand for Digital Mental Health Care is Increasing

The demand for mental health care services has grown drastically over the past three years. According to Kaiser Family Foundation data, outpatient visits related to mental health or substance use diagnoses increased from 11 percent in 2019 to 39 percent in 2021.

In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration loosened regulations on mental health applications so that people would not have to go without support during the difficult early days of the pandemic. This decision allowed for rapid growth in direct-to-consumer mental health treatment through apps like Headspace and BetterHelp. As a result, venture capital firms invested more than $2.4 billion in digital behavioral health apps in 2020- more than twice the amount invested in 2019.

As the public health emergency will likely wind down this year, organizations must figure out how to continue to meet consumers’ preferences for mental health care. Many consumers prefer the convenience and privacy that digital alternatives offer.

Why Use Digital Alternatives

Although people first turned to digital alternatives out of necessity, it is clear that many patients now prefer digital alternatives. Mental health care is particularly suited to digital treatments, as physical examinations are often not required for diagnosis and treatment.

In addition, digital alternatives can help limit stigma and reduce stress. Accessing care at home means that running into neighbors in the waiting room is physically impossible. Digital options offer privacy and discretion. People can access care without worrying that someone will find out about it.

Even better, patients can access digital mental health care at almost any time and location. This increases access to care for people with demanding work and family schedules, limited transportation, and other reasons they cannot come into a traditional medical office during regular office hours. An internet connection is all that is needed to talk to a mental health professional.

Finally, digital alternatives enable individuals who are members of underserved groups to connect with mental health professionals who understand their experiences. For example, removing geographic restrictions can allow an LGBT person to meet with a therapist who accepts their identity and has experience working with individuals of different gender and sexual identities. Increasing patient satisfaction leads to better health outcomes.

Barriers to Digital Mental Health Care

A report from athenahealth found that even though there is a growing demand for mental health services, many adults still do not have access to the care they want and need.

High-speed broadband access is still not widespread or affordable enough to support digital health options for many individuals living in rural areas. Federal and state governments are working with internet service providers on solutions, but it remains an issue for rural and poorer patient populations.

People are also concerned about the cost of mental health treatment and possible insurance issues. Many insurance plans do not cover mental health treatment. High out-of-pocket health costs can lead people to postpone or avoid care, producing poorer health outcomes and raising overall healthcare spending.

Mental health stigma is also a barrier to care. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of the athenahealth survey respondents reported feeling judgment from family members when talking about mental health. Removing cultural barriers to treatment is a complex issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need.

Conclusion

Digital mental health care is likely here to stay. For mental health professionals offering telehealth and digital care, remember to use secure communications. As the FDA re-instates regulations, insecure texting, email, and video will no longer be secure enough for patient communications. Contact LuxSci today if you want to learn more about protecting digital mental health care communications.

Implementing Zero Trust Architecture

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

The US Government has released its zero trust strategy to help government agencies implement zero trust architectures. It requires federal agencies to meet certain standards before the end of the 2024 fiscal year.

zero trust architecture

The zero trust strategy aims to improve the nation’s security posture and reduce the potential harms from cyber attacks. It assumes that attackers cannot be kept outside of network perimeters and sensitive data should be protected at all times.

The move toward zero trust architecture is a significant undertaking for the federal government, and this strategy aims to outline a common path for agencies to take, as well as limit uncertainty about transitioning.

It will require agency heads to partner with IT leadership in a joint commitment to overhaul the current security architecture and move toward a zero trust model. The strategy encourages agencies to assist each other as they work to implement zero trust architecture, exchanging information and even staff where necessary. Ultimately, the zero trust strategy aims to make the federal agencies stronger and more resilient against cyber attacks.

What Does The Zero Trust Architecture Strategy Include?

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) created a zero trust maturity model to guide the strategy. The model contains five pillars including:

  • Identity
  • Devices
  • Networks
  • Applications and Workloads
  • Data

There are also three themes that cut through each of these areas:

  • Visibility and Analytics
  • Automation and Orchestration
  • Governance

Identity

First, the strategy includes a number of identity-related goals. Federal agencies must establish centralized identity-management systems for their employees. These systems must integrate with common platforms and applications.

Another core goal is for agencies to use strong multi-factor authentication throughout the organization. However, it must be enforced at the application layer rather than at the network layer. Password policies no longer require the use of special characters or frequent password changes.

The new strategy will also require that user authorization also incorporates at least one device-level signal. This could include confirming the device is authorized to access the application and has up-to-date security patches.

Devices

Under the Devices pillar, federal agencies must participate in CISA’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program. This allows them to create reliable asset inventories. The other major goal is for each agency’s Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools to be deployed widely and to meet CISA’s technical requirements.

Networks

Among the network-related measures, agencies need to use encrypted DNS to resolve DNS queries wherever it is technically supported. They must also force HTTPS for all web and API traffic. On top of this, agencies also need to submit a zero trust architecture plan that includes their approach to environmental isolation to the Office of Management and Budget.

Applications and Workloads

In addition, there are a number of application and workload-related goals for agencies, including:

  • Operating dedicated application security testing programs.
  • Undergoing third-party application security evaluations.
  • Running a public vulnerability disclosure program.
  • Working toward deploying services that employ immutable workloads.

Data

When it comes to data, agencies must follow a zero trust data security guide created by a joint committee made up of Federal Chief Data Officers and Chief Information Security Officers. Agencies must also automate data categorization and security responses, with a focus on tagging and managing access to sensitive documents. They must also audit any access to encrypted data in commercial cloud services. Another goal is for agencies to work alongside CISA to implement logging and information sharing capabilities.

Zero Trust Architecture and the Future

The federal government isn’t just pushing toward a zero trust architecture model as a fun new hobby. Instead, it is a response to the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, especially those originating from nation-state level groups.

These complex and well-resourced cyber attacks aren’t only a threat to government agencies. Other organizations face similar threats in the ever-changing threat landscape. The reality is that businesses also need to move toward the zero trust model in order to effectively defend themselves in the future.

LuxSci can help your organization make the change through services such as our zero trust email options, or our zero trust dedicated servers. Contact our team to find out how LuxSci can help your organization prepare for a zero trust future.