COVID-19 has created additional digital identity management challenges in healthcare, Imprivata survey reveals

Points to need for healthcare-specific digital identity strategy

As the digital identity company for healthcare, Imprivata wants to understand how the pandemic has impacted the way health systems manage identities across their organizations.

Specifically, we’re keen to gain insights relating to a key inquiry: what digital identity and access management challenges have organizations faced when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In March, we surveyed CIOs and other CHIME members about their digital identity and identity management solutions. Then in August, we re-surveyed that same group to determine what impact, if any, the COVID pandemic has had on identity management.

These “before and after” survey results provided a trove of interesting information. Among the responses, a few key takeaways stand out. These include the following:

  • Identity management remains largely a manual process;
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges of managing digital identity; and
  • Health IT leaders recognize the value of a commercial identity management solution, but face challenges that have delayed implementation of such solutions.

Let’s look at these highlights in more detail.

Identity management remains largely a manual process 

The initial (pre-COVID) survey revealed that 60% of organizations used manual processes to manage identity, with an average of 2.8 full-time employees (FTEs) dedicated to the process. The later (post-COVID onset) survey revealed that 71% of organizations use manual processes for identity management, but the average number of FTEs dedicated to the process decreased to 2.3.  The impact was that on average, it takes more than 5 days to fully provision an on-boarding constituent. This comparison reveals an interesting dynamic: after COVID, manual processes increased – but with fewer FTEs. How to explain this seeming contradiction? Perhaps the identity management challenges created by new roles/apps/devices and newer pandemic-focused IT priorities came along at the same time that budget cuts and furloughs forced organizations to manage this increased complexity with fewer resources.

COVID response efforts have exacerbated the challenges of managing digital identity 

In the post-COVID onset survey, 59% of respondents indicated that identity management has become more challenging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? According to survey respondents, this is primarily because of the challenges of managing an increased remote workforce (as cited by 90% of respondents), new devices in use (63%), and new locations from which care is being delivered (45%). How to manage these challenges? The most valuable security tools, survey participants indicated, were multifactor authentication (according to 82% of respondents), mobile device management (59%), and single sign-on (35%). 

Health IT leaders recognize the value of a commercial identity management solution, but face challenges that have delayed implementation of these solutions

In our pre-COVID survey, 67% of those who use manual processes said they plan to purchase a commercial identity management solution over the next 3 years. But in the post-COVID onset survey, this increased to 75%, indicating that COVID has accelerated the need for commercial-grade IAM. Meanwhile, from an investment perspective, 94% of respondents plan to increase spending on security, with nearly one-half stating they would purchase security tools in 2020 – and they rate multifactor authentication as the highest-priority solution. 

In addition to these “before and after” data points, survey respondents provided useful information about their preferences for identity management solutions. 90% of respondents, for example, strongly preferred that their digital identity vendor have specific experience working in the healthcare environment. And 93% of respondents indicated that it was important that all their IAM solutions come from a single vendor, rather than cobbling together solutions from multiple partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been truly disruptive – both for healthcare and other industries. By surveying CIOs and other CHIME members both before and after the pandemic hit, we have gathered valuable information that will help us continue providing our clients with exactly the right digital identity and identity management solutions.

To learn more about Imprivata’s IAM solutions, please click here.