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Johns Hopkins Embraces Single-Sign On Technology

Simple badge taps let medical personnel quickly and securely log on to any of the institution's hundreds of publicly accessed hospital workstations.

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IT personnel at Johns Hopkins Hospital Network were faced with a challenge: how to simplify the log on process at hundreds of public workstations--computers used throughout the institution, by a myriad of medical personnel--without risking a security breach? They've set their sights on Imprivata's enterprise single-sign-on (ESSO) technology called OneSign, to address the problem.

The ESSO tool, a type of "tap-and-go" technology, currently is being implemented in Johns Hopkins newest facilities, the Sheikh Zayed Tower and the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. Dwight Raum, director of enterprise services at Johns Hopkins, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, said the technology lets users walk up to a workstation and use a badge tap to authenticate themselves. "It's been a tremendous win for us in terms of time savings and user satisfaction," he said.

Hopkins facilities have hundreds of public workstations shared among thousands of users. Prior to implementing OneSign, workstations always were left logged on so users didn't have to sign in and out at all. There was no individual identity established at the workstation level and users were typically authenticated at the application level, to multiple applications per session.

This meant that IT couldn't determine how best to present apps to individual users. It also posed a security threat because accounts were always shared and IT had no idea which users were logging on to which workstations.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Raum said another problem was that "... if a clinician had logged into a work station and a record opened to a specific patient and somebody came in behind them, they could see information they shouldn't be seeing so it's a privacy issue."

Fixing all these problems took time. "Overall, our ability to roll out single sign on and tap-n-go was really dependent upon us having really solid directory infrastructure in place already. We spent many years building tools to manage the infrastructure effectively. The Imprivata component allowed us to bridge that last mile of authentication to our users that were in the clinical space," Raum said.

The reduction in the number of times a clinician has to authenticate every single day in the course of providing care to patients is the single biggest advantage, Raum said. "The time savings is real because you're looking at several seconds per authentication that you're saving that provider and when you scale that across the number of individuals who are authenticating these apps the time savings is significant."

Although integrating the Imprivata technology itself took only hours, it took much longer to understand user workflow, said Raum. "That's where we spent a lot of our time. Change management was a huge part of what we had to do."

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