The physics of healthcare access control

For more than 140 years, The Albert Einstein Healthcare Network (AEHN) has provided impeccable medical care to the greater Philadelphia area and has earned a reputation for quality, excellence and leadership in the healthcare field.

To better serve the communities of greater Philadelphia, the network split from Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia's largest healthcare system, to pursue its own independent strategic direction. As a result, Albert Einstein Medical Center changed its name to Albert Einstein Healthcare Network. Senior management implemented a rebranding strategy that included a new corporate identity and mission as well as a new logo. That meant the network needed new ID badges.

The Challenge

The first major challenge for AEHN security, led by Russell Jones, network director for protective services at the organization, was replacing the employees, doctors, volunteers and other medical staff's badges with ID cards featuring the network's new logo. And while developing a re-badging production strategy, Jones decided to leverage the project to upgrade their entire access control system as well.

This was no small task. With four hospitals, seven campuses and approximately 50 off-site primary care physician and surgical center locations, the medical center and its network host 1,200 beds, 6,000 employees, 1,200 staff and voluntary physicians, 10,000 visitors per day, and more than 100,000 emergency room patients per year.

New readers were required to replace the 300 existing Weigand swipe-card readers, and 7,000 new badges needed to be securely produced and distributed to the ID card holders efficiently, and with minimal disruption to the normal flow of business.

"The protective services department is a lean group of people responsible for all aspects of security at Albert Einstein," Jones says. "With our small team, it was imperative to identify a cost-effective method to re-badge the employees, volunteers and other personnel that wouldn't dominate our time for weeks on end."

Since AEHN has multiple campuses spread over a wide geographical distance, installation of the new readers and re-badging needed to take place in phases. "We needed a solution that would work with our old Wiegand swipe card technology and allow us to migrate in phases to a more technologically advanced access control solution," Jones says.

Another important requirement for the Network was to integrate its KRONOS payroll system, which tracks time and attendance, into the new badges. Integrating payroll into the system added a layer of complexity to the card technology that was important to employees and the overall healthcare system.

The Optimum Solution

With their challenges outlined, Jones selected Siemens, a global security systems integrator, to be the technology integrator on the project. Siemens chose HID Global's iCLASS technology readers and smart cards, and HID's Identity on Demand (IoD) services to securely produce the thousands of new ID badges.

HID Global provided the current Wiegand system at AEHN, so it was a natural progression to upgrade the access control system and produce badges using HID solutions, since Jones and his department already trusted the company's products and services. "Siemens, HID and I put a tremendous amount of effort into planning and implementing the best solution for Albert Einstein Healthcare Network," Jones says. "The reader and badge upgrade could not have gone as well as it did without the partnership."

By choosing iCLASS contactless smart cards, AEHN facilities now have higher levels of security than traditional access-control technologies. They also benefit from a platform that not only incorporated the payroll system, but can also easily add other applications, such as single sign-on and cashless vending.

Since the new technology was to be installed in phases, old and new card readers were going to exist in the facilities at the same time. To ensure a seamless transition for employees, HID Global offered dual-technology iCLASS cards that worked on both systems.

At the start of the project, Jones considered the option of producing the ID badges in-house with rented equipment and temporary staff. But, in addition to the cost and time required by his protective services team to manage and supervise the project, Jones was concerned about the possible waste due to mistakes made in badge creation. He wanted a turnkey solution to produce the cards quickly with the least amount of hand-holding.

Based on Siemens and HID Global's recommendations, AEHN leveraged HID's expertise by choosing the HID Identity on Demand (IoD) services rather than producing the badges in-house. The IoD services securely produced personalized credentials quickly, efficiently and within budget. It worked with AEHN every step of the way, ensuring each card detail was perfect so that they could securely transfer sensitive information from their database.

To guarantee that AEHN's KRONOS payroll system worked accurately and flawlessly with these cards, IoD printed 50 cards that were then tested over two payroll cycles. The cards performed perfectly each time and proved their compatibility with the KRONOS payroll system. "Allowing us to do a test run of the new ID cards with our payroll system gave us peace of mind," Jones says.

Once they confirmed the payroll and ID cards were fully integrated, AEHN provided a database of employees and their photos so the badges could be printed and encoded off-site at IoD's card production facility. Within four weeks, AEHN had 7,000 newly branded badges incorporating the new technology. "Using Identity on Demand services for the re-badging aspect of this project was a significant benefit because it required minimal involvement from me and my team, allowing us to focus on other high-priority issues," Jones says.

As the Weigand swipe readers were replaced in phases with iCLASS contactless card readers, the dual-technology cards were compatible across multiple facilities. The remaining 3,000 of the 10,000 printed cards only featured contactless technology, since eventually all the Weigand equipment will be replaced with the new iCLASS readers.

Results and the Future

Four weeks after initiating the project with HID Global's IoD group, AEHN had 7,000 personalized badges that announced their new brand, increased security with the latest technology and seamlessly integrated with the payroll system.

The entire project was completed on time and within budget. Since adoption of the new smart-card badges, a variety of other departments have integrated other functions including single sign-on to computers, enhancing the security of AEHN information throughout the organization; and cashless vending, integrating cafeteria and vending systems to work with the payroll system.

Future plans for the multi-application platform include tracking employees' mandatory vaccinations and adding credentials of physicians for visiting doctors in case of a disaster. Down the road, the network is hoping to integrate the access-control proximity cards with medical records and patient info as well.

In the near future, AEHN is incorporating a fifth hospital and campus in Montgomery, Pa., to the security network that HID Global and Siemens has provided.

A side benefit to the project is a major savings in card replacements. With the legacy Wiegand swipe technology, AEHN replaced approximately 1,000 employee ID cards every year due to wear-and-tear. Now, less than 100 of the new cards are replaced yearly.