Death by Clicking: SSO Avoids Threats to the Level of Care Your Patients Receive

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By Dean Wiech

In emergency care settings, clinicians need to act quickly to treat their patients. However, the login processes at hospitals and healthcare organizations can often cause delays with the service that they need to provide their patients.

Many healthcare organizations want to ensure the security of their systems and applications, but this often has a negative impact on the care they give their patients and can also lead to “death by clicking,” where precious moments are lost because of inefficient login processes and procedures. Clinicians need to quickly access the patients’ medical records including their history, dosages, medications, etc. to properly treat the patient. Every second that is lost could have been used in caring for the patient.

Something as simple as logging in to the computer and applications can become an issue and a major consumption of time, especially when it needs to be done multiple times or into multiple applications. This situation can be made even worse if physicians, nurses and other caregivers forget their passwords since they often have to remember several sets of credentials, and become locked out of the network. Though health records need to be kept secure, patient care should not suffer in the process.

Simplifying access to important systems, like patient health records, can save anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes each day, which is time that could be spent caring for patients. Quick access to a patient’s health record allows caregivers to make decisions about what kind of treatment options and medications to pursue. Clinicians often have to check several different systems and records in multiple environments to make these decisions. With a single sign-on solution, employees not only improve their workflow, documentation and security is also improved since the software records all user activities. This allows the healthcare organization to easily see what each employee is doing on the network.

Healthcare organizations need to reduce the headache associated with password issues and increase efficiency for clinicians so that they can provide a better experience for their patients. Simple solutions, such as single sign-on software, can easily mitigate these issues and are a necessity for reducing the time wasted on the login process. By not implementing an SSO solution, healthcare organizations are knowingly wasting precious time which can easily be reduced.

A single sign-on solution allows clinicians to have a single set of credentials to log on to a computer or workstation. Once they log in one time, they are automatically signed into all authorized systems and applications when they are launched.

SSO eliminates major hassles for clinicians and allows them to focus on their key priority, the patients.

The Rivierenland Hospital was one such medical facility that improved its efficiency with an SSO solution. The hospital’s clinicians indicated their frustration at having to remember too many log-in credentials and the time that it took them to log in before assisting each patient. An SSO solution was implemented allowing clinicians to swipe their card near the card reader and enter a PIN to access all of the applications and systems they need without having to remember and enter long passwords.

The solution supports a variety of applications, such as the healthcare solutions Soarian (Siemens), X/Care (McKesson), Patient Data Management System (PDMS) and the Zamicom hospital pharmacy information system, so that separate passwords don’t have to be entered for each.
“We have received compliments from various departments, including the usually highly-critical Intensive Care department. This is an extremely user-friendly solution,” said Jos Meeuwsen, the hospital’s system administrator.

Healthcare organizations are sometimes hesitant to implement an SSO solution because of the misconceptions they have, believing that SSO can hinder security, or that an implementation will be expansive or drawn out.

IT managers assume that if an unauthorized person gets hold of that single log in credential, that person will have access to all the account’s associated applications. Though this does appear to constitute a risk, the log-in process is actually streamlined for the user. Having to remember just one password essentially does away with the risk that the users will scribble passwords on a piece of paper and squirrel them away under their keyboard. If they still feel strongly about it being a security risk, SSO can offer additional security with two-factor authentication. This allows clinicians to swipe or place their card on the card reader in addition to entering a unique PIN. This process ensures that the user needs something physical, the card, and something from memory, the PIN, to access the network. Additonally, a second pass of the card, or removal from the reader, closes all applications and logs the user of the computer.
In regard to the implementation being an expensive and a drawn-out process, the nice thing about an SSO solution is that it’s often not necessary to set it up for all the people in an organization. In a hospital, for instance, SSO is only needed for a select group of people. The advice here is to restrict SSO to the most critical applications and the people who have to log in to a variety of different applications or from multiple locations. The implementation will then be easy to control in terms of price and complexity. This offers an excellent springboard for any further growth and expansion in accordance with changing future needs.
In addition to reducing the amount of time it takes to log in, SSO also has additional benefits. It can easily assist with audits by providing a detailed log of each user who has logged in and what they did on the network. It can also help healthcare organizations easily switch from shared workstations to individual account logins, which is required by HIPPA. Instead of eliminating the shared workstations and giving clinician’s credentials to the systems and applications, SSO easily transitions them to their own single set of credentials. Additionally, many vendors offer a “follow me” feature. This option allows users who have opened applications on Citrix and/or Terminal Server to continue their work on another computer.

An SSO solution along with the many features offered can result in a drastic time savings, particularly in the case of specialists who make their rounds amongst several departments or floors.

Implementing SSO is an easy process, and the solution integrates with almost all applications, including cloud applications. Once up and running, SSO provides the healthcare organization long-lasting benefits including increasing the care that patients receive and eliminates a great deal of wasted time.

Dean Wiech is managing director at Tools4ever. Tools4ever supplies a variety of software products and integrated consultancy services involving identity management, such as user provisioning, role-based access control, password management, single sign one and access management, serving more than 5 million user accounts worldwide.