The nexus between network security and consumer privacy increasingly is seen in measures that health care organizations are taking to comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Systems deployed to meet HIPAAs privacy deadline in April this year will also help achieve compliance with a security deadline in April, 2005.
At Childrens Hospital in Boston, the IT department this year implemented an integrated system of password management and user provisioning that meets HIPAAs privacy goals without creating obstacles to the staffs access to data, said Scott Ogawa, chief technology officer at the hospital.
"We were stuck between a rock and a hard place," Ogawa said Tuesday at the Inside ID conference at the Washington, D.C. convention center. "Our job is not to stand in the way of the care-giving process. Clinicians demand immediate access to their data."
One of the greatest challenges the hospital faced was securing the network password system, which, according to Ogawa, presents one of the top ten threats to security. Easy-to-guess passwords are all too common, he said.
"It would probably shock you, but before HIPAA, youd walk around in ICU and you would see several Post-It notes [with passwords] on each of the monitors," he said, adding that resetting passwords cost the hospital $160,000 per year, and employees who forgot passwords could face long delays before regaining access to the network.
The integrated password management and user provisioning system not only improved security, but it also improved access to data, Ogawa said. Password reset calls dropped by 80 percent, and the hospital is saving $207,000 per year.