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emerging technology

How to implement an identity management solution for your healthcare organization

Gibson Toombs
March 12th, 2021
9 MINUTE READ

As digital technology continues to revolutionize the healthcare industry, cybersecurity becomes increasingly important. In 2020, the industry experienced a 25% increase in data breaches, putting added pressure on hospitals, doctor’s clinics, dental offices, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare organizations to update their legacy technology and adopt solutions and processes that protect patient data from hackers. 

Under the traditional IT security model, often referred to as the “castle and moat” concept, individuals and devices are automatically trusted by a network once they have been granted access rights to it. However, in today’s digital landscape, where organizations store and process data across various cloud solutions, the castle and moat approach isn’t secure enough to prevent cyber attacks. Once a hacker gains access to a single resource, they can then access other systems inside the network as well. 

For healthcare organizations, this issue has been further exacerbated by the growing popularity of IoMT (internet of medical things) devices—such as wearables that can monitor a remote patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, mood, etc. In response, IT departments have adopted a zero-trust policy, which requires strict digital identity verification for any person or device that’s attempting to access any resource on a private network. 

By implementing an identity management solution, or identity access management (IAM) software, you can uphold a zero-trust policy for your healthcare organization. These tools allow you to protect sensitive data, improve internal processes, and mitigate the risk of failing to comply with various healthcare regulations. 

In this article, we discuss the basics of identity management solutions, the benefits they provide, the top solution providers on the market today, and how to get started implementing this technology for your healthcare organization. 

What is an identity management solution?

Identity management solutions allow administrators and managers to effectively control who gets user access to certain applications, databases, and other assets within a network. It’s all about making sure that the right people have the right level of access to the right resources at the right time, and also being able to efficiently modify, add, and delete such permissions. 

A superior IAM tool not only keeps unauthorized users out, but also simplifies the authentication and authorization process for patients, doctors, nurses, and other personnel who might engage with a healthcare organization’s digital systems. Here are some of the most common examples of identity management software: 

  • Single sign-on (SSO): This software allows users to log into an organization’s independent, yet connected systems. Through one portal, users can gain secure access to multiple applications and data, saving time for both IT administrators and end-users. 
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA requires more complex restrictions for accessing sensitive information, accounts, and systems. Users must prove their identity in two or more ways, which may include security questions, text validations, and biometric security.
  • Patient identity management (PIM): PIM tools help healthcare organizations create and set permissions for individual patients. They also enable the identity manager to monitor user activity and delete suspicious accounts. 
  • Privileged access management: Similar to IAM tools, this software controls access to internal information and systems for employees, third parties, contractors, and business partners. 
  • Password management: Password management software simplifies logins by remembering user passwords. To prevent unauthorized access, a password manager will often deliver additional layers of security, such as complex passwords, required updates, MFA, and more. 

Benefits of identity management software

By implementing identity management solutions like the ones above, you can have better control over the content and applications that individuals in and outside of your organization have access to. For healthcare organizations, these are the chief benefits that IAM software provides:

Stronger data protection

By effectively managing user identities, logins, and passwords, you can protect private data against cyber attacks. Hackers specifically target healthcare organizations because they manage so much personal data, and usually employ outdated systems—which are easier to infiltrate than up-to-date software. 

Ransomware attacks, in particular, are becoming increasingly common in the healthcare space. This involves hackers planting malicious software, designed to shut down internal systems and cause administrators to lose access. Then, the hacker will demand payment by threatening to publish the business’ sensitive data. In Q3 of 2020, the number of ransomware attacks doubled, with healthcare organizations—like Sonoma Valley Hospital and Ascend Clinical—being the most common targets.

Better compliance

Operating in one of the most regulated industries, healthcare organizations and facilities require technology that will help them ensure patient privacy and maintain compliance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—which defines best practices for overseeing the technical security of patient data—is regularly updated to help administrators avoid issues like ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity threats that emerge along with new digital technologies—such as IoMT devices. The penalties for violating HIPAA can be severe, with some organizations currently paying up to $1.5 million per year in fines. Effective identity governance can help your practice stay compliant and avoid expensive fees for negligence.    

Improved management and productivity

In addition to greater data security and compliance, IAM software can streamline internal processes, leading to a better overall experience for both users and management. These tools automate authentication and authorization for users across disparate programs, so there’s less work on the back end for administrators. 

Through SSO, your patients can access applications on personal devices, without having to provide log-in credentials every single time. This leads to greater patient satisfaction, faster task completion, and fewer customer support inquiries. And by managing identities from a secure and centralized location, you can easily assign and withdraw access privileges as needed. 

Should you build or buy an identity management solution?

Building your own identity governance can help address specific security challenges facing your employees, patients, and associates, but it’s not the best approach for every organization. 

First of all, you have to address the potential risks. If your organization falls victim to a cyberattack, what kind of data—and how much of it—will be put in the wrong hands? With those consequences—and the healthcare industry’s strict regulations—in mind, ask questions to figure out if your development team has the resources and capabilities available to develop advanced enough safeguards. How much will it cost to build, implement, and maintain the technology? How long will it take? Will you need to hire additional developers? 

Healthcare organizations looking for a timely and cost-effective identity management solution are often better off going with a third-party provider. 

Top identity management solutions in 2021

Well-established identity management software providers stay up-to-date on new technologies, cybersecurity trends, and industry regulations to offer the fastest, simplest, and most secure solutions possible. As of 2021, these companies are the most popular IDaaS (Identity as a service) providers among healthcare organizations:

  • IBM: IBM’s cloud-based product—IBM Security Verify—offers SSO, MFA, lifecycle management, identity analytics, and other advanced features. It is currently employed by companies big and small in various industries across the globe. 
  • Oracle: Users prefer Oracle’s full-feature IAM suite because of its simple deployment, advanced SSO capabilities, and reliable customer support. 
  • Symantec: Considered a pioneer in the zero-trust approach, Symantec offers a broad range of IAM solutions. It’s also praised for its efficient reporting system. 
  • Microsoft: Microsoft’s IAM solution is called Azure Active Directory. It offers many of the same capabilities as competing providers, as well as multi-tenant support and cloud-based directory services. 
  • Ping: Ping Identity offers on-premise, cloud-based, and hybrid identity management solutions for businesses of all types and sizes. These solutions are known to facilitate rich user experiences and fast onboarding processes for organizations undergoing a digital transformation. 

How to integrate an identity management solution into your healthcare organization

Without a proper implementation strategy, your IDaaS solution may still be vulnerable to cyber attacks, resulting in a waste of time and resources. That’s why every healthcare organization needs a development team of IAM experts to help guide them through the transformation. When adopting this technology for your practice, the process should look something like this:

  • Define your IAM vision: Establish and document the roles between different users and applications in terms of privileges, constraints, and policies. Also, define any updated processes for patients, doctors, partners, and so on.   
  • Assess different options: After reviewing your organization’s current infrastructure, technical needs, budget, and timeline, decide whether you’re going to build an in-house solution or go with a third party. And when comparing different IAM service providers, take advantage of demos and test opportunities. 
  • Create an implementation plan: Put together a list of responsibilities and objectives to be completed at specific deadlines. When will the new tools be implemented? Who will oversee this transformation? What happens if something goes wrong? 
  • Conduct training: Make sure your employees, patients, and anyone else who will be affected by this transition is kept in the loop. And conduct training sessions where new users can learn the ropes and ask questions. 

Team up with Codal for superior identity and access management solutions

As an organization that collects, stores, and communicates highly sensitive information through various channels, strict and efficient identity governance should always be a top priority for your practice. A recent survey showed that 82% of healthcare organizations agree, and consider digital security their foremost concern. Still, in 2019, over 41 million patient records were hacked, causing administrators across the industry to reevaluate their current security systems. 

Data breaches—as well as penalties for violating industry regulations—can have a devastating effect on your organization’s growth. With an effective, properly implemented identity management solution, you can avoid cyber-attacks, maintain compliance, improve patient satisfaction, and increase revenue. 

As mentioned before, many healthcare practices simply don’t have the time and resources necessary to carry out a successful IAM implementation. It not only requires a thorough understanding of your organization, but also advanced technical knowledge around cybersecurity and identity management solutions like SSO, MFA, PIM, and other SaaS products. That’s where Codal comes in. 

We’re a web development and design agency that specializes in healthcare digital transformations. We’ve created digital solutions for all kinds of healthcare providers, from psychiatrists to medical cosmetologists. With a data-backed strategy and the latest IAM technologies, we’ll help implement an identity management system that keeps your patients’, employees’, and associates’ data safe from cybercriminals, so you can sleep better at night and focus on running your practice. 

Interested in learning more about identity and access management solutions in healthcare? Reach out to Codal today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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