Hospitals Getting Smarter on Credential Strategies and Access

Smart cards and smart lockdowns are healthy cures for hospital security and safety

The open architecture design of a smart credential means that it is capable of accepting a customized key for multiple, diversified applications. This lets hospitals add applications on their own terms, expanding as slowly or as quickly as they like. With memory options of 2K, 4K and 8K bytes, hospitals can get the memory they need, without paying for extra memory they don’t.

Not only can they access physical locations, but also the hospital’s computer networks and EMR (logical access). Smartcards can be used to match a healthcare provider with the patient to ensure safety during care. Employees will also find them convenient for payments at the cafeteria or vending machines, to check out scrubs, equipment and tools, for time and attendance, secure printing and other applications.

With the price of smart credentials being comparable to proximity today, the roadblocks for deploying smart credentials during the hospital’s next implementation, even if only for physical access control, are eased.


Caveat – There is More than One Type of Smart Card

To heighten security, ranging from protecting patients themselves to their medical records, hospitals need to use a contactless smart credential that is armed with mutual authentication and encrypted with (Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128- bit diversified keys. With such a capability, the card and reader verify that they are authorized to communicate bi-directionally. Additionally, 128-bit keys virtually ensure no one can read or access credential information without authorization.

The technology behind AES has been approved by the NSA (National Security Agency) for classified information. A message authentication code (MAC) further protects each transaction between the credential and the reader. This security feature ensures complete and unmodified transfer of information, helping to protect data integrity and prevent outside access,

If implemented, hospitals should use an open solution smart credential, one also built to adhere to ISO 14443, a four-part international standard for contactless smart credentials. This results in faster data transfer between credential and reader, up to 848 kbps baud rate (1K baud = 1,000 bits of data per second). ISO 14443 technology, the same standard used by the U.S. government, is especially recommended for hospitals applications requiring large amounts of data such as biometric templates to be used at pharmacies and other high security locations.

The secure access solutions available with open system smart credentials have several ROI implications. For example, when a smart card program is introduced, it immediately solves the problem of (forgotten) passwords for network access, a nemesis for both users and administrators. Hospitals will reduce overhead costs simply by not having to administer passwords. Or, for added security, using a smart card along with a password adds the protection of dual authentication to sensitive systems.

Also, the roll-out of smart credential solutions for physical access control is typically done in tandem with the implementation of card management systems that involve card issuance, personalization, access rights, management and post-issuance.


Using Smart Phones like Smart Cards

As Near Field Communications (NFC) technology is now being added to a growing number of mobile handsets to enable access control as well as many other applications, more and more organizations, including healthcare centers, are considering joining the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend and having their users deploy their own smart phones and their access control credentials. It is projected that over 285 million NFC-enabled smart phones were expected to be sold in 2013 and over half the phones sold in 2015 will be NFC-capable.

NFC provides simplified transactions, data exchange and wireless connections between two devices that are in close proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few inches. A web-based credential management system allows NFC-enabled smart phones to grant access to buildings and various rooms as well as partake of other badge ID applications just like smart cards.