Download PDF version Contact company

The healthcare IT ecosystem has become increasingly complex over the last decade. Connected medical devices, Electronic Health Records (EHRs), quality measurement systems and other innovations have transformed the way patient care is delivered, how outcomes are measured and monitored, and how patients connect with healthcare providers.

But with greater connection and complexity come greater risk and responsibility. Hospitals and other healthcare organisations have to comply with strict rules under HIPAA in the U.S. and GDPR in Europe and other regulations that protect private medical records and other patient information, such as financial data.

Growing cybersecurity concerns

They also must be able to address growing cybersecurity concerns that could put hospital networks, data or even patient safety at risk. One of the most critical steps that healthcare organisations can take to protect patients, data and assets is controlling who has access to critical systems and devices.

  • User authentication is the ability to correctly identify an individual user and match their information to the devices or systems they are using.
  • Access control is the ability to ensure that only authorised users are able to gain access to an asset or system.

Hygienic contactless access

User authentication and access control solutions help healthcare organisations protect patient safety

User authentication and access control solutions help healthcare organisations protect patient safety, comply with data privacy regulations, reduce loss and theft, and monitor productivity and healthcare quality metrics.

For many applications, the simplest solution starts with something most healthcare workers already carry: an ID badge equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. RFID-enabled systems can help healthcare organisations improve security and enable tracking for a broad range of devices and software systems. They are easier to manage and more secure than password and PIN systems and allow fast and hygienic contactless access to medical equipment, supplies and records.

User authentication and access control

RFID systems for user authentication and access control can be used across a variety of systems and devices in a healthcare setting. SSO systems allow a user to sign into the hospital network and access all of the software systems and records they are authorised to use and view. An RFID reader can be attached to, or embedded in, each workstation and mobile cart to enable fast and easy sign-on with an employee ID badge.

The reader confirms the user's identify for the SSO software, which controls access to all of the systems on the hospital network. Presenting a badge is faster than signing in to a workstation with a username and password and provides a record of who is logging into each workstation and what systems they are accessing.

Protecting patient privacy and control access

This is a real benefit in a healthcare setting in which workstations may be shared at a busy nursing station or placed on mobile carts for patient check-in and bedside point-of-care. It allows many users to securely share the same workstations, while ensuring that each one has access to the systems and information they need—and nothing they are not authorised to view. HIPAA and GDPR require healthcare providers to protect patient privacy and control access to sensitive medical records.

This helps organisations comply with privacy regulations and track who is accessing

Now that most of this information is stored in electronic form, providers need ways to control who is allowed to view or change information in the patient's EHR. RFID readers attached to computer systems can be used to verify the user's identity when they access the EHR software. This helps organisations comply with privacy regulations and track who is accessing and changing patient information.

Diagnostic and monitoring devices

The medical device world includes a broad range of therapeutic, diagnostic and monitoring devices, from infusion pumps to mobile X-Ray machines. Most of these devices require specialised knowledge to operate. Some can cause harm to patients if they are misused, turned on or off at the wrong time, or have the wrong settings.

Increasingly, these medical devices are also connected to each other or to hospital networks, creating new cybersecurity concerns. The FDA has issued cybersecurity guidance that requires medical device developers to have systems in place to limit the ability of unauthorised people to access device data or change settings. Integrating RFID readers into medical devices is an easy way to control physical access and track who is changing device settings and when.

RFID-enabled user authentication

At the same time, hospitals need to have systems in place to curb excess use

An RFID-enabled user authentication and access control system prevents accidental or deliberate harm to patients that may result when untrained people or malicious actors change system settings. Tracking supplies, medications and controlled substances is a critical concern for hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Nurses and other healthcare workers need fast access to supplies and medications to provide effective patient care. At the same time, hospitals need to have systems in place to curb excess use and prevent theft of expensive materials or controlled substances such as opioid medications. They also need to make sure the right patient gets the right medications and track material use by patient for accurate accounting and billing.

Tracking healthcare workers

RFID readers integrated into supply carts and cabinets prevent theft and encourage responsible use by controlling access to valuable materials or drugs and monitoring who is using supplies. Electronic kiosks and room display systems can be used to check patients into rooms and record who is checking on them and how often.

In a hospital or nursing home setting, they can replace whiteboards often used to track which healthcare workers are on duty and exchange information with healthcare workers on other shifts. With an RFID system, nurses and aides can simply flash their badge to check in to the room and record their patient visit. This makes it easier to track patient care metrics and maintain continuity between providers across shifts.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach
Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach

The 2020s will be a wireless decade in access control, says Russell Wagstaff from ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEA. He examines the trends data, and looks beyond mobile keys to brand new security roles for the smartphone. The benefits of wire-free electronic access control are well rehearsed. They are also more relevant than ever. A wireless solution gives facility managers deeper, more flexible control over who should have access, where and when, because installing, operating and integrating them is easier and less expensive than wiring more doors. Battery powered locks Many procurement teams are now aware of these cost advantages, but perhaps not their scale. Research for an ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions (AAOS) benchmarking exercise found installation stage to be the largest contributor to cost reduction. Comparing a typical installation of battery-powered Aperio locks versus wired locks at the same scale, the research projected an 80% saving in installers’ labour costs for customers who go cable-free. Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks Operating costs are also lower for wireless: Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks, which normally work via magnets connected permanently to electricity. Wireless locks only ‘wake up’ when presented with a credential for which they must make an access decision. AAOS estimated a 70% saving in energy use over a comparable lock’s lifetime. Find out more about wireless access control at ASSA ABLOY's upcoming 29th June webinar Deploying wireless locks In short, every time a business chooses a wireless lock rather than a wired door, they benefit from both installation and operating cost savings. A recent report from IFSEC Global, AAOS and Omdia reveals the extent to which the advantages of wireless are cutting through. Responses to a large survey of security professionals — end-users, installers, integrators and consultants serving large corporations and small- to medium-sized organisations in education, healthcare, industrial, commercial, infrastructure, retail, banking and other sectors — suggest almost four locations in ten (38%) have now deployed wireless locks as a part or the whole of their access solution. The corresponding data point from AAOS’s 2014 Report was 23%. Electronic access control Electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling Without doubt, electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling: Even after a year when many investments have been deferred or curtailed, the data reveals fast-growing adoption of wireless locks, technologies and systems. Is mobile access control — based on digital credentials or ‘virtual keys’ stored on a smartphone — an ideal security technology for this wire-free future? In fact, the same report finds mobile access is growing fast right now. Among those surveyed, 26% of end-users already offer mobile compatibility; 39% plan to roll out mobile access within two years. Before the mid-2020s, around two-thirds of access systems will employ the smartphone in some way. The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights Driving rapid adoption What is driving such rapid adoption? The convenience benefits for everyday users are obvious — witness the mobile boom in banking and payments, travel or event ticketing, transport, food delivery and countless more areas of modern life. Access control is a natural fit. If you have your phone, you are already carrying your keys: What could be easier? IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022 Less often discussed are the ways mobile management makes life easier for facility and security managers, too. Among those polled for the new Wireless Access Control Report, almost half (47%) agreed that ‘Mobile was more flexible than physical credentials, and 36% believe that mobile credentials make it easier to upgrade employee access rights at any time.’ IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022. Workers in every impacted sector require solutions which can get the job done from anywhere: Access management via smartphone offers this. Site management device The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights. For example, one new reporting and analytics tool for CLIQ key-based access control systems uses an app to collect, visualise and evaluate access data. Security system data could contribute to business success. The app’s clear, visual layout helps managers to instantly spot relevant trends, anomalies or patterns. It’s simple to export, to share insights across the business. Reinvented for learning — not just as a ‘key’ or site management device — the phone will help businesses make smarter, data-informed decisions. The smartphone will also play a major role in security — and everything else — for an exciting new generation of smart buildings. These buildings will derive their intelligence from interoperability. Over 90% of the report’s survey respondents highlighted the importance of integration across building functions including access control, CCTV, alarm and visitor management systems. Genuinely seamless integration They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term Yet in practice, stumbling blocks remain on the road to deeper, genuinely seamless integration. More than a quarter of those polled felt held back by a lack of solutions developed to open standards. ‘Open standards are key for the momentum behind the shift towards system integration,’ notes the Report. As well as being more flexible, open solutions are better futureproofed. Shared standards ensure investments can be made today with confidence that hardware and firmware may be built on seamlessly in the future. They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term. Open solutions and mobile management are critical to achieving the goals which end-users in every vertical are chasing: scalability, flexibility, sustainability, cost-efficiency and convenience.

What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?
What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?

Perimeter security is the first line of defence against intruders entering a business or premises. Traditionally associated with low-tech options such as fencing, the field of perimeter security has expanded in recent years and now encompasses a range of high-tech options. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?

Secure access control is helping to shape the post-pandemic world
Secure access control is helping to shape the post-pandemic world

With the continued rolling back of COVID restrictions in the UK, there is a palpable sense of relief. A mixture of mass vaccinations, widespread testing, and track and tracing of the infection is helping to enable a healthy bounce back for businesses – with secure access control taking an important role in facilitating this. However, rather than just being a reaction to the wake of the pandemic, there is every sign that the economy, and consequently the security sector as well, are both rebuilding and reshaping for the long-term new normal. Prioritising Safety Already deemed an essential service even during the first wave of the pandemic, the security industry has of course taken a vital role in protecting people and property throughout the crisis. Now that venues in the UK are starting to reopen again, our services are key to occupancy management and ensuring that disease transmission is limited as far as possible. Access control is also key in reassuring people that their safety is a priority. Making the upgrade It’s all been about choosing the most suitable components and technology that already existed with a few “tweaks”  Businesses and organisations have a duty of care to their employees and the safety of visitors – so controlling access, employing lateral flow testing, and deploying suitable Track & Trace mechanisms are all key components. I think those outside our industry are surprised to learn that most of the technology being deployed and used hasn’t just magically developed since COVID appeared – it’s all been about choosing the most suitable components and technology that already existed albeit with a few development “tweaks” or adjustments for the situation at hand. This includes using or installing facial recognition readers rather than using fingerprint or contact tokens, it is swapping to automatic request to exit sensors instead of buttons; it is using powered secure doors rather than having people all grab the same handle. Using mobile credentials is also a key technology choice – why not use the highly secure, easy to manage, cost-effective, and of course contact-free benefits of this approach? Touchless solutions We have seen a clear shift in organisations looking to protect their staff and visitors. For instance, we have a big utility customer in Southeast Asia that has just replaced close to 200 sites using fingerprint readers with an additional facial recognition capability. We have also seen a big rise in demand for touchless request to exit sensors and Bluetooth Low Energy Readers for use with smartphone authentication. Working together Integration of security systems is of course nothing new, but in the post-pandemic or endemic age, it has perhaps never been more important. Installations need to be simple, straightforward, and rapid to help maintain safe distancing but also to ensure systems can be deployed as soon as they are needed. The world is changing and developing rapidly and there is simply no place for systems that don’t work with others or cause the end-user considerable cost and inconvenience to upgrade. This flexible delivery of security solutions perfectly matches the evolving and increasing demands of the market. It’s clear that end-users want systems that work well and can easily integrate with their existing systems – not only security but all the other business components which work in unison with each other over a shared network. Great opportunities ahead The recent work-from-home trend is also clearly changing the way organisations and businesses interact with the built environment. Lots of companies are downsizing, offices are being split up, there is lots of revitalisation and reuse of existing office space – all of which creates considerable opportunities for security providers. UK inflation more than doubled in April 2021 with unemployment figures dropping and the Pound rising in value There are also, in the UK at least, clear signs that the construction industry is rapidly growing again -with a forecast of 8% rebound and growth this year. UK inflation more than doubled in April 2021 with unemployment figures dropping and the Pound rising in value – all positive signs for UK-based security providers. Undoubtedly the highly successful UK vaccination rollout has helped considerably, but there are signs that the Eurozone looks set to improve considerably over the next few months as well. Using integrated access control Undoubtedly the pandemic has made security markets around the world more aware of the benefits of integrated access control in managing the needs of the new normal COVID endemic environment. For example, as a business, we have always had keen interest from the UK healthcare sector, but over the last 12 months, we have seen a big growth in previously modest international markets including Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand – all of which are very keen to adopt improved access control solutions. Learning the lessons Nobody would deny the last year or so has been unprecedentedly tough on everyone, as a society we have had to make huge changes and sacrifices. Governments, organisations, and businesses all need to be better prepared in the future, to understand the things that went wrong and those that were successful. However, there is a world beyond the immediate pandemic and its effects. Flexible working practices and the changes these will have to the way we live and work will undoubtedly present great opportunities for the security sector in helping the world evolve. The pandemic has been a wake-up call for many organisations with regards to their duty of care to employees – particularly when it comes to mental health and providing a sensible work/life balance. Where we work and the safety of these facilities has received far more scrutiny than before. Flexible security systems Integrated security solutions have a vital role to play in not only protecting the safety of people during the post-lockdown return to work but also in the evolution of the built environment and move towards smart cities - which inevitably will now need to consider greater flexibility in securing home working spaces rather than just traditional places of work. Importantly, powerful access control and integrated security systems need to be flexible to the uncertainties ahead. The COVID pandemic has shown that nothing can be considered certain, except the need for greater flexibility and resilience in the way we operate our professional and personal interactions.