Why SSO is the key to unlocking digital transformation in the NHS

Over the weekend, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced investment of £40m to support projects aimed at easing the barriers to patient care due to the administrative burden on staff navigating slow login times. It’s long overdue that this challenge has been recognised by Central Government and given national prominence as it is something that we at Imprivata are exceptionally passionate about.



As the announcement points out, slow login times are the main frustration of NHS staff with clinicians battling as many as 15 different systems and GPs reporting as much as 17 minutes to login into their PCs – the equivalent of almost two appointments. In a recent NHSX survey clinicians cited slow login times as their second highest tech frustration and now, Central Government is taking action. Why are slow login times so frustrating to clinicians? Because it delays or blocks access to critical systems that enable delivery of high quality patient care. As healthcare transforms and more technology is introduced to the hospital, surgery, ward, ambulance or remote worker, it demands more security, i.e. usernames and passwords, to access it and introduces greater complexity. This is a direct result of the need to manage data security and information governance, both hugely important in the digital age.



As Matthew Gould, NHSX CEO states in the recent announcement “If you work in the NHS, the tech should not be getting in the way of your ability to do your job”. But slow login times have been at the centre of this issue for many years.

The technology to solve this issue exists and Imprivata has been building solutions and working with healthcare customers the world over to solve it for many years. In fact, in some respects the technology is the easiest part, what is critical is understanding the workflows that exist individually within the four walls of the hospital, or even the individual ward and beyond into the community, and then adapting the basic SSO solution to reflect the needs of particular roles, wards, or pathways that support clinicians to provide patient care. No two hospitals are the same and therefore a “one size fits all” solution doesn’t work, particularly as Trusts progressively innovate with technology, with patient care in the community expanding and patients increasingly active and empowered to participate in the management of their own care.

This is where the unique, healthcare only focus that Imprivata has is so important. Imprivata OneSign Single Sign-on solution has been developed specifically for healthcare. What that means in reality is that we’ve now created single sign-on profiles (so a profile that understands exactly what boxes and buttons a user needs to interact with) for over 16,000 different applications that our customers use. We have direct software integrations with a range of other technology solutions that include EMR, EPMA, VDI and mobile applications which allow for enhanced workflows to be used such as reauthentication or witness signing.

We walk the floor with clinicians and understand their working day, where, when and how they interact with technology solutions and then help them optimise their deployment to realise the maximum benefit. And we continue to iterate our SSO solutions to reflect the changing use of IT within a hospital including the mobile devices, cloud solutions and standards-based Web SSO.

Gus Malezis, CEO, Imprivata provides his perspective: “Effective use of technology plays a crucial part in delivering the complex, multi-disciplinary care that patients expect today. Digital Identity and Single Sign On (SSO) provides fast, efficient, and secure access to Healthcare IT systems including legacy and modern EHR systems with access to up-to-date patient information. Through SSO, this access is completely transparent to the doctor, nurse and other healthcare worker.

“While SSO is proven to deliver dramatic time savings when implemented across health organisations, its true potential is as the starting point for harnessing exciting technologies including mobile devices, medical devices and the Internet of Things, as well as AI, all of which will enable clinicians to do their jobs more effectively in future. Furthermore, SSO that is designed to enhance and support natural clinical workflows will boost engagement and break down the barriers to care. It provides a ‘quick win’ for IT because the end-users that have been struggling with complex passwords and overly long login times gain measurable improvements in their work experience, which in turn translates into enhanced patient experience and outcomes.”



The impact our approach to SSO in healthcare has is huge. The announcement references Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, one of our long-standing customers, who are saving over 130 hours of staff time a day! That figure should not be underestimated, that’s over 3 working weeks, time that can be spent caring for and focusing on the patient. And that isn’t an isolated case, in 2019 our NHS customers carried out over 32 million logins (to desktop and applications) using OneSign. If an average login saves 45 seconds, that’s nearly 17,000 full days of time saved, or more accurately, given back to clinicians to focus on patient care. SSO CAN BE TRANSFORMATIVE TO THE WAY CLINICIANS WORK AND PROVIDE CARE.

It is not just time saving that SSO can deliver, it can also open the door to transformative workflows that were previously not possible due to the barriers of access to systems. Last year, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust rolled out Imprivata Mobile Device Access, delivering SSO to Android based shared clinical mobile devices. The project had been on the drawing board but had not moved forward as clinicians were unwilling to use the solution due to the necessity to log in to the mobile applications. SSO on mobile allowed them to quickly and easily tap with their access badge to authenticate to the device and then SSO allowed them to log in to the applications automatically.

The technology took just eight weeks to implement and Phillipa Winter, Chief Informatics Officer, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust commented; “The primary objective of the eObservations project is to improve patient safety and quality of care, ensuring patients receive the best care to improve outcomes. Imprivata Mobile Device Access is an important factor in achieving this goal. When time is of the essence, every second counts; clinicians now have fast and secure access to the most up to date patient information to inform clinical decisions and patient care.”

They now have nearly 1,600 users deliver eObservations by the bedside, directly into the clinical application, as a result of implementing the Imprivata mobile SSO solution.

It’s clear that, by prioritising clinician access to systems, the NHS and NHSX are addressing one of the core blockers to digital transformation and focusing on pain points that exist on the frontline of care. This can only be a good thing for clinicians and ultimately the patients they care for.

To learn more about Imprivata’s industry leading Single Sign-on and Digital Identity technologies visit https://www.imprivata.co.uk/what-we-do. You can also read a multitude of case studies from successful NHS and healthcare implementations.