Healthcare is changing rapidly, driven by IT innovation and mission needs. To keep pace and improve care delivery, government healthcare organizations should leverage industry expertise, says Omar Altalib, director of strategy partnerships and growth for Amazon Web Services (AWS). MeriTalk recently sat down with Altalib to discuss some of the thorniest challenges for healthcare organizations today: cybersecurity, IT modernization, and innovation. These topics were central to GDIT Emerge 2022, which focused on expanding horizons in health innovation.

MeriTalk: Healthcare organizations are confronting a wide range of issues right now. What do you think are the greatest technological challenges facing government healthcare organizations?

Omar Altalib: There are three big ones: cybersecurity, IT modernization, and the desire to be more innovative. Cybersecurity is job one for all the government agencies AWS supports – and for AWS. We need to enhance government healthcare agencies’ ability to detect and respond to cyber threats and improve the overall user experience. COVID-19 and the expansion of advanced technologies accelerated the need for convenient and safe digital services; it’s what Federal employees and the public now expect. The number of digital interactions combined with the increased frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks threaten sensitive public health data and systems. We have to ensure that our customers, and the partners who support them, have the resources to protect themselves.

Legacy IT infrastructure and processes reduce government health organizations’ agility and cost optimization, hinder the implementation of new mission-driven capabilities, and represent security and operational risks. To mitigate these challenges, government health agencies require an IT modernization and innovation plan that fits into their budget as well as operations and maintenance plans.

Government healthcare customers need to create innovative IT capabilities by fostering external and internal engagements to research, pilot, and test new ideas. Emerging technologies allow enterprises to transform their operating environments, providing the potential for new and enhanced capabilities.

MeriTalk: Healthcare organizations are working to improve cybersecurity, innovate faster, and use their data effectively. How can purpose-built solutions help Federal healthcare agencies? Can you give me some examples of interesting and unique purpose-built solutions that you have helped build?

Altalib: In cybersecurity, HIPAA Quick Start is a good example; it includes AWS CloudFormation templates that automatically deploy the environment and configure AWS resources. Quick Start is part of a set of AWS compliance offerings that provide security-focused architectures to help managed service providers, cloud-provisioning teams, developers, integrators, and information-security teams follow strict security, compliance, and risk-management controls.

AWS’s work with Moderna on developing a COVID-19 vaccine is great use case for innovation. In a pandemic, speed to market matters; Moderna was able to complete the sequence for its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in just two days using machine learning (ML) built on AWS. The first clinical batch was released just 25 days later. AI algorithms enabled drug development, from rapid experimentation cycles to help design mRNA and DNA sequences to the automation of quality control analyses. AI saved hours of manual review of improvements across production processes and logistics.

Moderna is rapidly expanding mRNA science into other infectious disease targets and modalities, including oncology and autoimmune disease using the flexible, programmable nature of mRNA, powered by machine learning, to revolutionize how diseases are treated.

MeriTalk: In addition to purpose-built solutions, the AWS Healthcare Competency Partners program helps healthcare organizations find the right AWS partner to serve their needs. How does this program work? Can you describe the broad categories of partners and solution areas available?

Altalib: The AWS Healthcare Competency Partners program is for partners that have demonstrated technical expertise and customer success in building healthcare solutions on AWS that securely store, process, transmit, and analyze clinical information. There are four categories:

  1. Clinical Information Systems: Transactional systems used in the provider setting to capture and document clinical encounters as well as provide direct patient care
  2. Population Health and Analytics: Organizational and enterprise solutions to analyze and manage patient, population, quality, and operational data to improve cost and quality objectives
  3. Health Administration: Solutions that address operational requirements of the healthcare enterprise, including revenue cycle management and enterprise resource planning
  4. Compliance Services: Services and solutions that assist healthcare organizations with compliance and regulatory support, including system architecture

MeriTalk: How can the AWS Healthcare Competency Partners program accelerate customers’ digital transformation and enable healthcare analytics?

Altalib: At the macro level, the program validates and promotes partners with demonstrated AWS technical expertise and proven customer success. AWS partners are measured against a high bar, so a competency holder is a highly vetted partner.

Specific to healthcare, AWS Healthcare Competency Partners have demonstrated success in building healthcare solutions on AWS that securely store, process, transmit, and analyze clinical information. They meet all of the rigorous data privacy requirements dictated under HIPAA.

AWS Healthcare Competency Partners can work with customers to build innovative, cost-effective, and secure solutions that improve operational and clinical effectiveness, while improving patient outcomes for healthcare payers and providers.

MeriTalk: How would a government healthcare organization work with an AWS Healthcare Competency Partner to develop an entirely new healthcare solution?

Altalib: AWS has a number of paths toward developing new solutions for our customers. I’d like to highlight the Digital Innovation Program, which helps partners define a new product, service, or experience that solves a mission-critical problem and then rapidly brings that solution to life on AWS. It challenges partner organizations to think differently about customers and experience firsthand Amazon’s approach to innovation.

The program is broken down into three phases: working backwards workshops, solutions workshop, and handoff and build. Each phase of the engagement has different dedicated experts who work side by side with customers – giving them specialized support.  The end result is a working prototype that solves a customer need.

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MeriTalk Staff