Henry Ford goes to single sign-on

By Anne Rawland Gabriel
12:00 AM

DETROIT – While many are still evaluating single sign-on (SSO), Radiology Services at Henry Ford Health System is already a step beyond.

To reduce access bottlenecks for 1,400 users spread across 13 Detroit-area sites, the department just completed an eight-month pilot of active-proximity technology that detects users from dozens of feet away.

“Among other things, the pilot helped us find a logon/logoff balance,” said Darryl Bonner, supervisor of radiology information services. “If you’re just walking over to confer with a colleague, you don’t want the system to log you out. For our environment, a 10-foot walk up and a 20-foot walk away is the sweet spot. Now, you couldn’t take the devices away from the doctors who have them.”

Neuroradiologist Jeff Corrigan, MD, is among the lucky handful in the pilot. “It definitely speeds things up,” he said of the readers that detect the encrypted

signal from the RFID-based card hanging next to his ID badge. “Plus, automatically logging off when you walk away certainly facilitates patient privacy and record protection.”

Yet the active-proximity technology, called XyLoc MD by Ensure Technologies, isn’t the heart of the system. In fact, the pilot was an unexpected by-product of a larger SSO effort that began in 2006, as network lockouts were resulting in escalated organizational risk.

“As complex password aggravation grew, it became increasingly common for everyone to use one person’s access throughout a day,” Bonner said. “So, we evaluated four SSO solutions and Imprivata’s OneSign appliance offered the most sophisticated capabilities without adding development, administrative or network complexity overhead for our 20-person IT staff.”

Imprivata’s native XyLoc support can make an attractive pairing for strong authentication. “Although XyLoc is a decade old and stable, it’s much easier to deploy when the underlying SSO supports it natively,” said Mark Diodati, senior analyst with the Burton Group. “Otherwise, XyLoc requires custom integration with the incumbent development, administration and support costs.”

After a year of SSO deployment Bonner estimates basic features alone have trimmed help desk calls by an estimated $700,000 annually. “Ironically, strong authentication wasn’t originally a purchasing factor,” he said. “But, selecting Imprivata is permitting us to plan a department-wide expansion of active-proximity technology during the second half of 2009.”

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