Machine-learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technologies are crucial ingredients necessary to creating the next generation of healthcare data security and functionality, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official said today at an event presented by Fortinet.

Oki Mek, Senior Advisor to the CIO at HHS, outlined rationales for advanced tech applications for both data management, and for security.

On the data management front, he discussed the rapid growth in use of third party “as a service” applications in the healthcare industry, along with the impact of that use on data location. “There are so many work environments” in play that “we need to make sense of where our data sets are,” Mek said. “We need machine learning to not only make sense of the data also to know where it is,” he emphasized.

And for security applications, the HHS official argued that blockchain technology can be the foundation for a many solutions in the healthcare data security arena. Blockchain, Mek said, can provide accurate data “provenance,” that allows organizations to “have trust, and verify, that the data is there.”

For cybersecurity forensic applications, Mek said that gathering various sources of log data is difficult and often requires the help of third-party service providers. “But if you use blockchain, there is visibility that the data is there,” he said.

And with trusted data sources fixed in place with the help of blockchain tech, “you can start to go threat hunting … instead of being reactive,” he said.  “That’s the key, that is the future of cybersecurity,” he declared.

Speaking at the same event, Department of Veterans Affairs CISO Paul Cunningham said he believes that AI tech will be a “crucial part” of the solution of delivering high-quality healthcare services to more remote locations in the U.S.

Noting the large and growing shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals in the U.S., Cunningham said the ultimate solution to that problem probably won’t be finding more people, rather it will be employing more technology. “AI is going to be a crucial part of that solution, but not the only part,” he said.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.