Here’s a riddle: How many times in 25 minutes did the healthcare professional have to sign into a clinical application?
Imagine you’re an X-ray technician looking to perform a simple but urgent chest X-ray first thing in the morning. To start the day, you would need to sign in to your base computer station. If your X-ray equipment is 15 years old or younger, you’d probably need a username and password to activate it for the day.
Next comes finding your patient. You need to locate the patient’s details on your radiology administrative system – another sign-in. Once you finally perform the X-ray, it’s time to check if the image has been transferred to the archiving system for easy access by the requesting doctor. Which of course calls for another sign in to your PACS system.
So here we are, 25 minutes into a shift, four username/password entries later, one patient is seen. It is interesting to note that of the 25 minutes spent ‘performing’ this X-ray, only around 3 minutes was spent with the patient.
Much of the performance involved in carrying out healthcare-related tasks tend to be IT-related, and this includes signing on to multiple healthcare applications. This example only scratches the surface of how time-consuming and limiting repeated sign-ins can be for health professionals in the context of a full-working day.
The problem extends to almost all health professionals, as regular access to multiple clinical applications is the norm, involving clinical record systems, pathology results systems, examination ordering systems, administrative systems etc. And this does not take into consideration the frequent ‘time outs’ which are a built-in security feature of these applications.
This problem brings us to the question of how this problem can be tackled effectively without compromising data security. On one hand, the provision of quality healthcare relies on an IT infrastructure which is robust enough to store and retrieve patient data with ease. On the other hand, there are strict governance and compliance regulations that IT systems and applications need to be compliant with, in the interest of patient data security. How can a balance be struck between the need to efficiently manage patient data and the need to maintain high standards of security?
Healthcare-focused single sign-on (SSO) solutions seem to be the answer the industry is gravitating towards, and here are a few reasons why an SSO could present the perfect solution to this dilemma:
The average healthcare employee uses around 7 applications in the course of their working day. Because sign-in pages aren’t always instantly responsive, frequent sign-ins to each of these 7 applications can easily accumulate into a considerable chunk of time daily spent on IT and away from patients. This is neither convenient for the health professional nor for the patient. One junior doctor expressed his frustration in a UK report stating that IT was by far the most frustrating part of his job. Another report from the USA stated that physicians were devoting half of the time which should have been spent with patients, doing screen-related tasks. The amount of time spent signing into applications is a distraction from patient care, but a secure SSO has the potential to help healthcare professionals securely and conveniently login to multiple applications, keeping the patient at the heart of care.
A 2017 study found that implementing healthcare SSO across 6 hospital sites helped to increase productivity by saving 1461.2 hours per hospital, per year across health professionals of various disciplines. This means that 1461.2 more hours were spent with patients, rather with computer login in screens, and this doesn’t just represent a boost in productivity but also offers substantial clinical value. The study concluded that SSO technology was both effective and cost-effective in liberating clinicians’ time from repetitive and time-consuming logins into clinical software applications.
In addition to this, this boost in productivity could also be extended beyond the clinical areas, through to the IT support desks. The projected reduction of the burden on hospital IT systems due to fewer requests for password resets could liberate IT resources to focus on other needed support.
A study in the International Journal of Medical Informatics found that in each facility where healthcare SSO was implemented, there was an annual saving to the equivalent of A$136K gained from the reduction of clinician time alone.
When the data was extrapolated to include a total of 18 hospitals going live with SSO implementation (which also took into account a cost-saving in new PC purchases which would have previously been made without SSO) the total savings from both clinicians time and hardware came to A$2.9M.
Another study showed cost savings on the help desk and password recovery front. The survey by Gartner showed that 30% of help desk calls were related to password recovery password issues, and each password reset cost A$47. Based on an estimate of 3,000 users needing 4 password resets each year, the total savings from implementing SSO on each site came to a total of A$569K. With an increased number of clinical applications in use since the time of the study, this figure is projected to be much higher.
Following the implementation of healthcare SSO across 6 hospitals, researchers reported that clinical end-user satisfaction with the IT systems has improved significantly, as reported by the clinicians. Specifically, clinicians showed satisfaction with the improved ease and speed of access to clinical workstations and applications.
This was further confirmed when other members of the clinical team requested access to SSO as well, based on their observations. Reduced frustration in one aspect of clinical practice and increased satisfaction can help improve high staff turnover rates and also to enhance the staff retention efforts of the organisation.
In conclusion, while healthcare SSO implementation might have a high perceived cost, it is evident that the return-on-investment in terms of productivity cost savings, staff satisfaction and convenience make it a worthwhile investment. If you are investigating a single sign-on solution for your healthcare organisation, you might find it insightful to create a business case which takes into account the budget, the number of staff requiring access, help desk call volume etc to be able to accurately determine the financial viability of implementing a single sign-on solution for your healthcare organisation.