New Imprivata virtual smartcard technology simplifies NHS Spine access

Andy Wilcox, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Imprivata, explains how the new Imprivata virtual smartcard technology provides fast, secure No Click Access to NHS Spine-enabled applications. The virtual solution eliminates smartcard hassles and risky workarounds, and makes it easy for on-site and remote users to securely access the NHS Spine.

The NHS uses smartcards to authenticate users and control access to Spine-enabled healthcare applications and systems. Just like with a bank card, a user must insert an NHS smartcard into a reader and enter a PIN or passcode to gain access to a healthcare application.

Smartcards are secure and effective, but they can be annoying and inconvenient to use. (It can take up to 25 seconds to log in to an application using an NHS smartcard.) As a result, frustrated clinicians often use workarounds like leaving smartcards in readers, sharing login credentials, or using generic logins, which can introduce risk and make it impossible for security teams to accurately track system access.

Virtual smartcard technology streamlines logins, eliminates risky workarounds

The new Imprivata virtual smartcard technology eliminates physical smartcard woes and risky workarounds, while still providing all the security advantages of a two-factor authentication solution. Our new Imprivata OneSign® Spine Combined Workflow Plus solution provides fast, secure, auditable access to NHS Spine-enabled applications using virtual smartcards that are configured using the same familiar processes Registration Authorities (RAs) use to generate physical smartcards.

The Imprivata solution improves user experience and satisfaction, reduces risk, and complies with NHS standards. With Imprivata, a clinician simply walks up to a workstation, taps their badge, enters a PIN to log in into Windows, and gains near-instant access to any Spine-enabled application. Once authenticated, the clinician can continue to work without periodically re-inserting a card as they would with the physical smartcard approach. The virtual smartcard is securely stored on an on-premises Imprivata appliance for ultimate protection.

The new Imprivata solution makes life easier for RAs as well. RAs no longer waste valuable time and effort printing, distributing, and tracking physical cards.

Card-less solution provides secure access for remote users

Imprivata OneSign Spine Combined Workflow Plus is also ideal for remote users accessing the NHS Spine from home or the road. COVID forced many healthcare organisations to accelerate telehealth initiatives and implement work-from-home plans. In response, NHS Digital provided card-less access security solutions to NHS Trusts and CCGs, and adjusted security guidelines to accommodate remote users. Many NHS organisations plan to keep work-from-home options in place and expand telehealth programmes in the post-COVID world.

You can use Imprivata OneSign along with Imprivata Confirm ID® to provide secure and convenient access for remote users. The integrated solution supports a variety of multifactor authentication methods (push tokens, hard/soft tokens, passwords, etc.), providing single sign-on and strong security for laptops, home computers, or other devices that lack smartcard readers.

The virtual smartcard is built in to the existing, proven technology of Imprivata OneSign Spine Combined Workflow, already proven and in use across many NHS Trusts. For example, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust had identified the challenges of the physical smartcard, particularly in its busy areas such as A&E. Despite leveraging Imprivata OneSign to provide single sign-on and tap access with badges, Spine access was still frustrating due to the 25 seconds needed for each authorisation. Imprivata OneSign Spine Combined Workflow solved this problem by removing the need to enter the smartcard other than for the first authentication of the day.

Virtual smartcard will remove that final headache for clinicians and provide seamless, efficient access to all Spine-enabled applications, from the first access of the day to the last.

Learn more

Read how North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust uses Imprivata OneSign to provide clinicians fast, safe, and secure access to essential NHS Spine-enabled applications.

To learn more about how the new Imprivata virtual smartcard technology can help your organisation simplify NHS Spine access and strengthen security, join our webinar on Thursday, 27 May, 10am-11am BST.