September 20, 2017

The complex healthcare ecosystem is laden with diverse and disparate technologies. On any given day, providers utilize countless systems and applications that are essential to their regular workflow. With sensitive patient information residing in and passing through these systems, provider organizations must have continuity and consistency in delivering reasonable freedom of access while avoiding unintended, consequential exposure of information.

To achieve this, providers must have more than a common business policy for determining who should have access to what and when.They must have the right technology to execute and enforce those policies over a myriad of applications and systems residing across both on-premises and cloud infrastructures.

HIPAA and HITECH regulations are designed to protect sensitive health information from being improperly exposed or accessed. However, simply adhering to government requirements may not be enough to stem the tide of unwanted intrusions as evidenced in recent waves of health data breaches. Thus, the implementation of tools and systems – while they may verify compliance on an audit – do not put in place the policies and procedures to address the, often, more potentially-disastrous risks to the provider organization.

The Weight of Disparity

Proving compliance with regulations is, of course, a very important goal. Still, even if the audit passes, the organization could be at risk if it does not address the larger security concern of employees’ access to its data and applications. Taking a governance-based approach to security – where the tools used to meet compliance can see into every part of the organization – helps to ensure decisions about users’ entitlements are based on all the relevant information. Connecting all the applications and systems a provider may utilize – and supporting applications like SSO with governance policies – is of paramount importance.

Security Gaps

Cybersecurity is about closing vulnerable gaps. Even a small fissure can lead to significant, negative consequences. For instance, a worker’s disgruntled separation from employment may have been properly reflected in the HR system. However, because the provider may utilize a number of disparate systems and processes, the worker may not be properly deprovisioned of entitlements and access within the electronic health record (EHR) system. As a result, sensitive patient data is unnecessarily still accessible, resulting in a security gap that can lead to patient data being exposed.

Clinical Workflow

From a workflow perspective, the disparate systems and processes could also affect clinical care. For instance, due to accidental oversight, a contracted physician may be given access to the EHR, but not the enterprise content management system where scanned clinical media and photos are stored. As a result, the physician’s efforts to fully understand a patient’s condition and provide timely care may be delayed.

Multiple Authoritative Sources

Many provider organizations have multiple authoritative sources such as HR, EHR, MSOW, etc. These are systems and applications where user identity and access rights are most accurately defined and deemed by the provider organization as the true source for such information. Having to manage multiple identity sources and their access rights creates difficulty in ensuring consistent execution of policies and resource optimization.

A Unified Governance Approach

Identity governance and administration (IGA) is designed to address these challenges by behaving as the “connective tissue” that bridges these disparate systems together; giving providers a unified and centralized method to manage and enforce governing policies to ensure efficiency and drive efficacy across all systems and applications.

Incorporating the EHR is important

The EHR is among the various systems and applications that providers should incorporate into a comprehensive unified governance approach. When properly integrated together, providers can extend continuity in their approach for governing access to one of the most-used technologieswithin the provider-care setting. In doing so, integration with a provenIGA solution should:

  • Minimize interruptions to hospital operations: Reduce downtime for new hires and transfers by automating changes to access rights the EHR9 in 10hospitals reporteda breach in thepast 2 years45%of healthcare organizations hit with 5+ data breaches in last 2 years
  • Reduce compliance risks: Mitigate risk of regulatory non-compliance by automating processes to reduce human errors and recording governance activities to demonstrate proof-of-compliance
  • Increase efficiency: Eliminate disparate processes that can quickly consume IT time and resource

Incorporating the EHR is important, but…

While incorporating the EHR into your identity governance program should be a top priority, it is not exclusively beneficial. A unified approach means incorporating all other applications and systems that are essential to provider operations. Whether HR, MSOW, billing, accounting, etc., even if providers are not using them from a clinical workflow, they play a crucial part in the operations. For that reason, providers cannot leave out other critical technologies, as that will leave vulnerable gaps in security, increase the likelihood of error, and unnecessarily tax already-lean resources. To maximize the efficiencies and effectiveness an identity governance program can bring, providers need to think globally and implement a strategy designed to mitigate gaps in security.

Learn more about Identity for Healthcare.

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