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Choosing the right proximity badge access solution for your healthcare organisation

The nature of work within clinical settings involves constant motion – between patients, between rooms, between departments and sometimes even between buildings! Modern-day medicine has evolved to mean that with this movement comes the need for regular and constant access to various devices and workstations.

To be able to work efficiently while avoiding liability, healthcare professionals need quick, efficient and secure access to electronic medical records (EMRs) as well as a host of other clinical applications which are critical to the provision of high-quality patient care.

One technology that makes this possible is proximity badge technology. While various solutions exist within the market, not all available solutions have the functionality to streamline clinician workflows across complex environments. Therefore, the key to success lies partly in the ability to choose the right solution.

The rest of this article aims to guide the reader through the process of selecting the right proximity badge solution that is fit for purpose within a clinical setting. It will cover what key features need to be considered for the purpose of offering the required functionality while minimising the need to overhaul existing infrastructure.

Proximity badge technology in healthcare

Proximity badges have had practical applications in industries such as real estate management in the provision of access into buildings. In healthcare, they are used to offer health professionals quick, efficient access to clinical workstations – both on physical desktops and virtual desktop environments.

The way proximity badges work is that they require clinicians to tap an access badge on a proximity badge reader to gain access to a application. A second tap would usually be required to either lock or secure the user’s session.

Proximity badge technology eliminates the annoying requirement for users to repeatedly enter passwords on each workstation where access is required, including after session time outs. By automating the login process, clinicians benefit from a more streamlined workflow allowing them additional time to spend on patients.

In addition to this, proximity badges provide stronger desktop security while remaining compliant with HIPAA regulations, as clinicians can easily lock workstations with just a tap, reducing the risk of unsecured workstations and exposed patient data.

Complex endpoint environment support

The healthcare working environment is made up of an eclectic mix of deployable hardware technology (Windows PCs, HP thin clients, Chrome devices etc) and physical endpoint devices which provide access to Windows and Linux-based virtual environments (Microsoft RDC, VMWare View, Citrix XenApp, and XenDesktop).

To be able to support the heterogeneous IT requirements of the whole hospital, IT departments tend to deploy an array of varied endpoint devices on a single infrastructure. Decentralisation of IT in healthcare organisations may mean that various departments determine their own technology needs, and this coupled with budget constraints may limit departments to deploying only certain types of endpoint devices. 

As a result of this, the decision-making process when selecting a proximity badge solution should take into account the nature of heterogeneous computing environments so that clinicians are allowed to “roam” their sessions across a range of device types. This is because selecting a proximity badge solution which is restricted in its ability to communicate across a range of devices can lead to a number of problems such as:

  • Ending up with multiple proximity badge solutions which each require separate management and maintenance to meet the needs of each department.
  • Users having limited access to their work on only certain devices, or only certain parts of the hospital
  • Increased complexity within an already complex infrastructure, leading to higher costs and a greater need for administrative resources.

Desirable features of a proximity badge access solution

Tap-over functionality

Tap-over functionality allows users to be able to access sessions on devices over the active sessions of other users. This feature works by efficiently securing the previous user’s session for access at a later time while logging in the new user. Most proximity badge solutions offer tap-in and tap-out functionality, but very few offer tap-over functionality. Therefore it is important to specifically request this feature if maximising clinicians productivity and convenience is a priority for your organisation.

Automatic log out

The tap-out feature which simplifies the logout process still remains open to human error, as users can forget to tap-out, leaving sensitive information exposed on their devices. Choosing a proximity badge solution which automatically logs users out after a predetermined amount of time is an effective way to mitigate this risk. This feature guarantees compliance with data privacy laws and organizational data protection policies.

User registration without IT assistance

Several proximity badge solutions require an initial ‘user registration session’ with IT personnel in order to register users for the first time. A good proximity badge solution eliminates this step by allowing users to self-register by tapping their badges and entering their Active Directory details, after which users can begin using the service. This feature saves time and reduces the workload of IT staff, allowing them to focus on more strategic priorities. On the other hand, users bypass the usual waiting process for IT to complete registration, allowing them to get to work faster.

Web-based administration tools

Web based administration tools offer the benefit of offering IT administrators the ability to manage proximity badge settings and audit reports remotely. Where a clinician experiences difficulty with their proximity badge, for example, the IT administrator is able to fix the issue remotely without needing to connect to the hospital network. This is especially important for the healthcare industry where health professionals and proximity badge users tend to work outside regular working hours. Features that IT administrators are allowed access to include:

  • Viewing users badge registration status
  • Deleting, disabling and enabling badge access
  • Determining what type of proximity badges are accessible
  • Setting the frequency of users password prompts
  • Determining PIN usage for users along side their proximity badges

Option to layer proximity badge access with a PIN

The level of access to data required by each member of staff, in each healthcare facility varies distinctly. In some clinical areas, users might need access to highly sensitive information where an additional level of security may be required. For example, adding a PIN to certain clinicians badges might be necessary if they require higher levels of privilege. A solution that offers the option to do this would help maintain high levels of security across the organisation.

Because of the complex, multi-faceted IT requirements of today’s healthcare organisations, it is important to ensure that the proximity badge solutions in consideration are compatible with multiple platforms while increasing user efficiency and security.