AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Sensitive Data can be Shared Across Organizations While Supporting Compliance with Privacy Laws

In the social service and public health sectors, providers rely on data collected by many different institutions to provide the best care to their clients.  But data management and analysis can cause challenges for the social service and public health sectors.

In order to take an integrated approach, case workers must have the capacity to share and access vital information about the client, not only within their own agency but also with partner agencies involved in the client’s care. The challenge has been that each agency traditionally uses its own system of data collection, and these systems are not designed for cross-collaboration. Furthermore, U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and other mandates require that sensitive data must be managed securely and in compliance with the law.

VerticalChange, an APN partner, recognized a need for more flexible, affordable, and easy-to-use tools for data collection and reporting. VerticalChange provides a range of security features including SSL encryption for all communication within the application, as well as role-based permissions and logging related to access of all client data. These and other features enable organizations to maintain compliance with relevant security privacy regulations including HIPAA.

VerticalChange uses the cloud to provide access to your data wherever you are, quickly and securely. The application can scale to meet your needs whether you have 5 or 5000 users, and the utility pricing of the cloud allows them to provide a cost effective pay-as-you-go service with full support.

“Previously, service providers and case workers have been limited to an offering of niche products that lack sophistication and flexibility. But because VerticalChange runs on AWS and is distinctively agile, we were able to provide continuous live deployment in a robust architecture that is constantly improving. And we are able to do this across a range of service domains. This has all been possible because of AWS,” said Jonathan Humfrey, CEO of VerticalChange.

Connected Data: The County of Santa Barbara, CA

For example, in early childhood education, data is often fragmented and does not connect across systems. The County of Santa Barbara uses VerticalChange to collect, manage, and share critical programmatic data for its Early Childhood Education initiatives with its 20+ nonprofit and government agency partners. As systems connect with school districts and other providers, they can determine if kids who had access to certain services are on a trajectory to do better in specific areas, such as third grade reading and math scores. The Santa Barbara Foundation and a number of other foundations have supported research and development related to the project through grants to nonprofit partners.

Based on the success of the first proof of concept, VerticalChange iterated on this idea and the latest solution now:

  • has import/export functionality;
  • can be integrated across different systems;
  • can bring data from multiple systems into a single VerticalChange account where it can be combined with other data;
  • And, another component allows for the integration by API with an assessment tool for mental health.

VerticalChange has evolved into a powerful tool for programs and initiatives that include multiple service providing agencies. Learning from the lessons of the County of Santa Barbara, the Research Department at Child Care Resource Center is now using VerticalChange for projects in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties, including two federally funded demonstration projects.

VerticalChange is able to help its clients manage and utilize their data more effectively, giving them time back to spend helping people.

Learn how to use AWS to meet requirements for HIPAA, FERPA, and CJIS in this presentation here.

Attending AWS re:Invent 2016? Don’t miss the “Using AWS to Meet Requirements for Education, Healthcare and Public Safety (HIPAA, FERPA, and CJIS)” session during the Public Sector Pre-Day on Monday, November 28, 2016.


AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the AWS Public Sector blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWSnonprofits).