Success Story

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Gaining Physician Trust and Improving Electronic Engagement with Single Sign-On




Houston Healthcare, headquartered in Warner Robins, GA, has been its county’s largest healthcare provider for the past 50 years. The health system offers a variety of services to its residents and includes two hospitals, three urgent care centers, a heart institute, and a surgery center. These facilities are operated by approximately 2300 employees and 150 physicians on medical staff.

To effectively manage a health system this size, single sign-on and badge readers were implemented throughout Houston’s facilities to enhance the security of electronic systems and improve employee access. By eliminating the need to remember multiple passwords across various systems, Houston has found that electronic engagement among employees has greatly improved. In fact, the health system migrated to MEDITECH’s 6.0 platform in November, 2011 and credits single sign-on with helping to simplify this transition. Houston also plans to implement MEDITECH’s Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) application in the near future and expects single sign-on to bolster physician adoption. “We knew single sign-on needed to be in place well before implementing CPOE,” says Rob Rhodes, CIO at Houston Healthcare. “You stand a better chance of getting physicians on board with CPOE when you make it easy for them to access.”

A Single Sign-On Vendor with MEDITECH Experience

“When we were evaluating single sign-on vendors, there really wasn’t a lot of competition for two main reasons,” says Rhodes. “Forward Advantage has a relationship with MEDITECH and experience with their client base.

They are also a reseller of Imprivata’s OneSign, which is the market leader for single sign-on. When you add those two pieces together, Forward Advantage was a pretty easy choice.”

“Working with Rob and his team is a real pleasure,” says Mike Knebel, vice president of sales at Forward Advantage. “They have a clear goal in mind, which is to make physician access to the system easier so that their time is spent delivering care. While Rob knows there are other benefits to single sign-on, the focus has always been on physician convenience.”

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Eliminate Multiple Passwords and Reduce Help Desk Calls

Prior to implementing single sign-on, staff at Houston were typically forced to remember anywhere from six to eight passwords depending on their department. A user name and password had to be entered for every system. “People have the tendency to write passwords down, which is an obvious security concern,” says Tim Burris, IT security analyst at Houston. “It became a procedure for staff to write this information down and either tape it to a badge or keep it in a pocket where it could be easily misplaced.”

All of Houston’s major programs are now credentialed for single sign-on, including: MEDITECH, the Emergency Department’s charting system, the fetal monitoring system, radiological image viewing applications, the hospital occurrence reporting system, e-mail, the Internet filter, and the employee training system. Now a clinician taps their badge to a workstation which automatically fills in their user name. A PIN is entered upon initial log-on, which populates the end user’s log-on credentials and allows access to their systems. When an end user’s workflow requires them to move to a new workstation, they simply tap their badge to log out of the initial workstation. Houston has also implemented fingerprint readers with single sign-on for its IT and executive staff to add an extra level of convenience for these employees. Only a small handful of employees have access to fingerprint readers for testing purposes; however, the health system is considering rolling this technology out in the future to its additional office-based workers. “Single sign-on has been incredibly popular because it’s simple to use and makes things easier for our employees,” continues Burris.

“It’s also made our employees much less dependent on the Help Desk. We’ve noticed at least a 50 percent reduction in support calls since implementing single sign-on.”

- Tim Burris, Security Analyst at Houston

An In-Demand Implementation

The implementation of single sign-on has been overseen by Burris as a phased deployment. Houston has been rolling out a handful of departments at a time, focusing first on the patient care units and other clinical departments.

The health system fulfilled all of its initial single sign-on licenses and plans on purchasing and deploying additional licenses until full coverage is reached. “As we’ve gotten better at deploying single sign-on, we’re finding that there is less internal resistance because departments are now excited when we come to their area,” says Burris. “Our most recent implementations have had almost 100 percent positive reviews.”

“The system is really in demand now by our staff,” continues Rhodes.

“Single sign-on was such a success in one of our surgery areas that we received a call from a physician who asked for the ambulatory surgery center to be put at the top of the implementation list. The fact that we’re getting this level of buy-in from our physicians is remarkable.”

- Rob Rhodes, CIO at Houston Healthcare

Meaningful Use and HIPAA

Initiatives at Houston have included working towards Meaningful Use and HIPAA compliance, both of which are greatly benefiting from single sign-on. With regards to Meaningful Use, Houston’s physician IT committee had recommended eliminating paper charts to force physicians to work electronically. “All of our physicians have complied because we have made things easier for them,” says Rhodes. “They’re happy with the transition to MEDITECH 6.0 and the fact that it’s easier for them to access the systems. Making electronic systems easy to access encourages their usage, which is why we anticipate great results when we implement electronic order placement with CPOE. This will take us even further with Meaningful Use.”

“One of our first initiatives with single sign-on was to eliminate generic passwords, requiring each user to log in with unique, identifiable credentials. This greatly increased user accountability and logging capabilities,” says Burris. “This step, coupled with single sign-on’s innate locking features, has greatly increased our HIPAA compliance.”

Future Initiatives

Despite a busy 2011, things are not anticipated to slow down at Houston in the coming year. The health system will continue to work towards achieving Meaningful Use and plans to roll out MEDITECH’s CPOE and Emergency Department solutions. “A lot of our future initiatives tie back to single sign-on,” says Rhodes. “We had a big win with our physicians by rolling out a new system that has made their lives easier. We’ve earned some trust with these physicians which will make them more supportive of the solutions, like CPOE, that we implement in the upcoming months.”

About Houston Healthcare

Houston Healthcare is proud to serve the medical needs of residents in Warner Robins, Centerville, Perry and Houston County, Georgia, as the county’s largest healthcare provider for 50 years. Our system includes Houston Medical Center, a 237-bed facility in Warner Robins; Perry Hospital, a 45-bed facility; Houston Heart Institute; The Surgery Center; Houston Health Pavilion; urgent care centers and outpatient services. As a regional provider, Houston Medical Center provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient healthcare services annually to more than 160,000 people residing in Houston and surrounding counties.