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EMS hires new billing company to boost cyber-security

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services is moving patients’ billing data to a new, cloud-based service, in another step to protect that sensitive information after last year’s cyberattack on the county.

Pasquotank County commissioners last week approved spending about $14,600 to switch from TriTech, EMS’ current billing software provider, to Ambulance Information Management, of Slippery Rock, Pa.

In proposing the switch, County Manager Sparty Hammett said the company would store patient data securely and off-site — a key goal after December’s cyberattack. Hackers exploited a vulnerability, since closed, in TriTech’s software that allowed access to almost 15 years’ worth of patient records, creating a risk of identity theft for patients.

Commissioners’ meeting agenda also explains the AIM switch comes with a $5,000 start-up cost, but afterward will only cost about $9,540 a year. That’s the same cost as what TriTech charges, it notes.

In an interview later one, EMS Director Jerry Newell said EMS put out a request for proposals for cloud storage earlier this year, and AIM was the only company that offered it without use of an additional, third-party vendor. Adding another company to the process just creates another security vulnerability for the county’s data, he said.

In an email, Hammett also touted several features that AIM offers, including meeting industry auditing standards and federal patient privacy requirements, and getting annual, outside audits of its security.

Newell said the AIM switchover will start happening next month, and new patients and bills will be handled through the new system. EMS will maintain its historical data and bills — some 40,000 accounts going back almost 20 years — for use as needed, he noted. Patients shouldn’t notice the changeover, and it won’t affect EMS operations, he said.

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