The Security Scrutinizer with Howard Anderson

VA's CIO Moves From Laptop to iPad

Roger Baker Participates in Pilot Project

"I don't use my laptop any more," Roger Baker told reporters in a conference call Aug. 30. Instead, he uses an iPad, as part of a VA pilot project, for several purposes, including accessing e-mail. Content stored on the device "is all encrypted and it's double password protected," Baker said. "The only way that VA information is going to reside on those kind of devices is with that kind of protection."

Baker remains optimistic that use of iPads and iPhones will begin Oct. 1 as planned, noting that the pilot project, involving more than 100 staffers, hasn't raised any red flags so far.

I don't use my laptop any more. 

In announcing the move last month, Baker said allowing the use of more mobile devices should cut costs because, in most cases, they'll replace pricey laptops or desktop devices (See: VA to Allow Use of iPhones, IPads). And Baker is proving that theory by scrapping his own laptop.

So far, feedback from clinicians piloting the Apple devices has been positive, Baker said. "Clinicians are the real focus of this effort," he noted, pointing out that they had demanded access to the devices. To help ensure patient privacy, they'll use the Apple devices as "viewers" to access, but not store, certain patient data.

While the VA hasn't made a final decision, Baker expects that, initially, the Apple devices will be acquired by individual facilities, rather than in a national acquisition effort. One thing's for certain, he said: The use of personally owned iPads and iPhones won't happen for a while.

And in the long run, the VA anticipates accommodating a much longer list of mobile devices, Baker said last month. Right now, VA staff members can only use BlackBerry smart phones.


In another pilot effort on the horizon, the VA expects to begin testing RFID tags for laptops, desktops and other "high value" items later this year, Baker said. The tags will make it far easier to conduct an equipment inventory and could help track down lost or stolen devices.

"We'll roll the technology out nationally once we're clear we have a program that serves the bulk of our needs," the CIO said.

And on Aug. 30, a new electronic health record open source initiative that the VA is supporting launched its website. The Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent project's mission is "to facilitate, through the use of the best practices in open source software development, the improvement and maintenance of EHR information systems." The effort was launched using code from the VA's VistA electronic health record system.

The VA is working toward integrating its EHR system with the Department of Defense's records system. Open source standards will help facilitate that effort, Baker explained.

About the Author

Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson

News Editor, ISMG

Anderson is news editor of Information Security Media Group and was founding editor of HealthcareInfoSecurity and DataBreachToday. He has more than 40 years of journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues. Before launching HealthcareInfoSecurity, he served as founding editor of Health Data Management magazine, where he worked for 17 years, and he served in leadership roles at several other healthcare magazines and newspapers.

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