Healthcare IT


If you like ’80s comedy movies, Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield has to be somewhere on your list. Like Rodney, I’m going to back to school this year, hopefully with less comedic results. I’ve been accepted into Northeastern University’s Masters of Healthcare Informatics program. I’ve recently become far more aligned with our clinical systems leadership and strategy and though I’ve built up a good clinical systems knowledgebase from immersion and osmosis, nothing beats a real education on the subject. Given the increasingly critical role IT plays in the care process and the opportunity to innovative in the space, I’m thrilled about this opportunity. I’m hoping that my technology and business background, coupled with deep experience at Partners and a Masters degree in Informatics will enhance my position to be a leader in healthcare IT. When I joined Partners almost six years ago, I thought I had found a great job. Little did I know that I’d find a passion to help improve healthcare with technology. Wish me luck!

Being in healthcare IT, I get bombarded by security and strong authentication vendors pitching their latest systems to ostensibly help us become HIPAA-compliant and more secure (note to vendors: showing up with HIPPA instead of HIPAA on your slidedeck isn’t a good thing). The biggest issue with these solutions isn’t necessarily the technology itself, but how it integrates into various clinical workflows spanning busy multi-user in-patient environments to encounter-oriented out-patient settings.

A new solution, Dynahand, aims to relieve users of having to remember complex passwords by using their own handwriting samples as the basis for establishing trust and authenticating users. It’s another biometric solution that uses something physically unique to a user, but it doesn’t require any additional hardware. Instead, the user recognizes their unique handwritten digits and selects them to perform authentication. I’d love to see the samples of clinicians — a group not known for their stellar penmanship. Luckily, that’s not the point.

Solutions that combine physical and behavioral characteristics to provide authentication is an interesting space for us. While usernames and passwords work today, they’re definitely cumbersome and periodically changing them can be a pain for some of our users. However, I haven’t yet seen a better path forward that doesn’t somehow force our users to remember to carry a smartcard (even when combined with their physical access badge, they’ll forgot it), go through the template creation process of biometrics or require some additional and costly hardware at some end of the infrastructure spectrum. We continue to evaluate and recommend new options that meet our criteria of usability, management, support and of course, cost.