Source: Walt Zywiak, CSC, U.S. HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE SHORTAGES: CAREGIVERSIt is very unusual to see the term “business differentiation” being used in the world of Identity and Access Management (IAM), but working with a customer recently, business differentiation was the very topic of our conversation; and yes, it was in the context of IAM – hard to believe, right?

In the recent past, I have written about IAM in Healthcare and provided an explanation for why there is an explosion of IAM adoption in this particular sector. In one recent post, I talked about the impact that IAM can have in patient care, and specifically in Emergency Care, which I found very sobering.

But last week, my conversation with the business owner of clinical solutions for a large healthcare organization was so enlightening, to me at least, that I felt compelled to share the story with you, as I found this to be a very unique opportunity to talk about IAM as a business transformation element for an organization.

As I am sure you know, there is a pronounced healthcare workforce shortage in the United States, particularly caregivers (nurses and physicians), and it is acutely so in the geriatric area where the gaps are greater. As a result, healthcare organizations face competition for the available workforce, and it is imperative for them to attract and retain top talent to achieve a significant competitive advantage.

In our experience working with healthcare organizations, we have learned that the majority of physicians are contractors instead of employees. I speculate that this phenomenon is directly correlated to the shortage in physician workforce, since a physician is likely to provide services at various sites and thus for different healthcare organizations, and opt for the flexibility and income maximization of being a contractor.

What this means to the healthcare organization is that in order to retain this physician, they need to look for differentiation over other competing organizations, even though this physician is not an employee. Therefore, organizations need to create a model for differentiation that goes beyond just pay (though evidently, pay is a big driver), and it is here where IT, and specifically IAM, can be valuable.

An effective and well-aligned IAM program, coupled with the appropriate IT infrastructure, could enable physicians to:The iPad in the Operating Room

  • Work under a “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” environment, which in addition to being a global trend in IT, appears to be a desire commonly expressed by physicians. Physicians’ ability to leverage their own laptop, tablet computer or mobile device to do their work and connect to clinical systems, complete dictations, access email and other applications seamlessly at the facilities they provide services at, is seen as a significant gain in productivity.  We discussed some of the implications that this trend has for the organization’s IAM infrastructure and program in a past blog article. Anecdotally, my customer shared a story of a physician that called the Help Desk to request that they allow his iPad to connect to his favorite streaming music service online whiledoctor enjoying music in the Operating Room. This meant relaxing a firewall rule to allow the music traffic through, and while he was glad that the access was granted to the physician, I am sure that the patient and her relatives were happier to hear that the physician was able to get his wish while performing the procedure “at the right beat”.
  • Spend more time providing care and less time trying to get access to the applications that physicians need in order to provide care. As discussed in this article, this would create benefits such as:
    • Less idle time waiting to get on-boarded from the onset. This speaks to automated and streamlined provisioning.
    • Less time signing on to clinical systems and applications, and accessing the patient record. This speaks to IAM capabilities such as reduced and single sign-on, possibly coupled with context management such that clinical applications that the physician utilizes show the electronic record for the patient being attended to; as well as a usable and efficient password reset and recovery mechanism. In some cases, strong authentication, whether biometric or proximity badge-based, could add to the convenience and efficiency of the end user experience while providing higher assurance.
    • Provide new types of healthcare services, such as allowing a new father at a remote location (such as a soldier deployed overseas) to securely witness the birth of his child; or allow a new mother at home in a rural area to receive breastfeeding lessons from a nurse through an online video conference.

This conversation only scratched the surface of what could be a new way to look at IAM in healthcare. Being able to measure the success of the IAM program in improving physician retention or in reducing healthcare costs, tracking the effect that certain IAM capabilities can have in effectively differentiating a healthcare organization in the marketplace, increasing patient and caregiver satisfaction, and consequently coming up with new ways to justify funding IAM initiatives are very tough, non-trivial metrics to obtain, and while I won’t discuss them in this article, I do believe that this way of thinking about IAM will have very positive effects for healthcare, and will turn into drivers of innovation for IAM products and solutions.

One of my predictions for healthcare in the coming years is the accelerated pace of modernization in IT, particularly in the area of IAM. Therefore it is very important for those leading IAM initiatives to always remember that business must always come ahead of technology for the initiative to be successful, thus ensuring that there is clear alignment between the business objectives of the organization and the goals of the IAM initiative. As much as possible, measuring the effectiveness of such alignment will be a good approach to a successful IAM program. Nishant Kaushik posted a great blog article on this topic.

While this discussion is mainly focused on healthcare, it can easily apply to other industry sectors where workforce shortage and increased demand is taking place. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Managed IAM

Frank Villavicencio

Frank Villavicencio