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VAR Success with Vernier’s Adaptive Network Security

Challenge: WLAN Security and Manageability
St. Agnes Hospital, a Solucient Top 100 full-service health care facility, is a major provider of health care in the metropolitan Baltimore area. It’s an impressively busy place. In 2002, the hospital received over 76,000 emergency room visits and over 150,000 outpatient visits. That same year, there were over 20,000 admissions, and the hospital’s surgical teams performed over 15,000 procedures.


All this activity requires high volumes of data—such as medical records, lab reports, prescriptions, reference material—and data communications. Not surprisingly, the health care workers at St. Agnes are constantly creating, updating, and filing documents and records, and they’re doing this while they’re on the move, visiting patients, walking to labs, and consulting with colleagues.

HIPAA-compliant Security
The federal HIPAA standards passed in 1996 require medical records to be electronic. Once records are electronic, it makes sense to deliver them to health care workers over a wireless network. Wireless networks are ideal for connecting mobile workers to the data they need.

Doctors need to focus on patient care not on connecting to Information Resources.

But the same HIPAA standards that require data to be electronic also require it to be secure. Patient-specific medical records may be accessed only by the appropriate workers. Data access must be monitored and logged. Wireless networks, notorious for their security breaches, pose an immediate challenge to any hospital IT team interested in transmitting patient-specific data while complying with HIPAA security mandates.

First, the configuration procedure was time-consuming. “We were spending so much time configuring PDAs with security keys, that we didn’t have time to test and add new applications to our overall network,” explains Larry Lawson, the hospital’s director of IT. Second, if the device was an HP iPAQ and its battery died, the IT staff would have to start from scratch and reconfigure the device. A final problem was that, more recently, WEP has been recognized as not sufficiently secure to be HIPAA-compliant.

The hospital needed a network security solution that would keep data confidential, without requiring the IT staff to spend several hours each week configuring and reconfiguring PDAs and laptops.

Enter Vernier Networks and its channel partner, Networking Concepts, Inc. (NCI)

The Solution: The Vernier Adaptive Security Platform
In February 2004, St. Agnes Hospital deployed the Vernier Adaptive Security Platform (ASP), the first adaptive network security system that enables hospitals to assure continuous, secure network availability on their wired and wireless networks. NCI, a networking integration firm based in Columbia, Md. installed and configured the Vernier system. The Vernier solution proactively protects networks from increasingly complex malware attacks, automatically removing threats when they appear in the data path. Highly configurable, the Vernier ASP continuously adapts security policy to respond to changing network conditions and to defend against evolving security threats.

The Vernier ASP enforces access rights based on user ID, time, and location. A nurse may be given permission to access the hospital WLAN 24 hours a day, but only in the wing of the hospital where he is assigned to work. He wouldn’t be able to access the WLAN in the hospital pharmacy, and if he tried, his login attempt could be configured to send an alarm to the IT staff.

A major advantage of the Vernier ASP approach to access management is that it is user-based, rather than device-based. Once authenticated, a user gains access to whatever network resources are appropriate for his or her role, regardless of the device being used. This user-based approach frees IT teams from having to configure laptops and PDAs with the encryption keys or client software required by device-based security measures, such as WEP.

The Vernier ASP offers other time-saving features, as well. For example, with the Vernier ASP managing network connections, the IT staff no longer has to interrupt its work to reconfigure end user devices that are misconfigured for the network. If a user has proper login credentials, the Vernier ASP automatically adapts the network to provide connectivity to the end user’s device, regardless of its network configuration. This automated connection management saves IT departments valuable time, especially in organizations with large numbers of users.

VAR Benefits: High margin service revenue, entry into healthcare market
Networking Concepts, Inc., a networking integration firm based in Columbia, Md. installed and configured the Vernier system at St. Agnes Hospital. “The Vernier ASP gave us the opportunity to offer high-margin security consulting services to St. Agnes Hospital” says Marvis Moseley, President of NCI. “While St. Agnes was impressed with the comprehensiveness of the ASP platform, we were able to capitalize on the solution to broaden our portfolio and up-sell to our existing healthcare customers seeking HIPAA compliance. Vernier was an excellent vendor-partner providing us with pre-sales and post-sales technical and marketing support in helping us sell this solution to St. Agnes.”

Results: Adaptive Security, Manageability and Improved Patient Care
The Vernier ASP provides St. Agnes Hospital the HIPAA-compliant security it needs for wireless networking, while significantly reducing the workload of the hospital IT staff. Communication now flows securely between the hospital’s mobile workforce and the hospital’s IT systems, such as its EMR applications. Because end users authenticate through a login screen served by the Vernier system, the IT team no longer needs to configure individual devices with WEP keys. The result is secure, convenient wireless access for hospital staff and visiting physicians. Vernier ASP is helping St. Agnes Hospital deliver the excellent care the hospital is known for.

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