Verizon Offers Free Security Credentials To Healthcare Professionals

The credentials meet Level 3 authentication requirements and allow healthcare providers to receive digitized health data from other clinicians securely.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Senior Writer, InformationWeek

November 16, 2010

3 Min Read

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety

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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety

Verizon Business is offering 2.3 million licensed healthcare professionals in the U.S. free medical identity credentials to make it easier for clinicians to securely share patient information via Verizon’s own Medical Data Exchange and other e-health platforms.

The credentials can allow healthcare providers to securely receive digitized health data from other clinicians via private inboxes accessed from a new Verizon Medical Data Exchange physician web portal.

Verizon’s multi-factored identity credentials meet Level 3 authentication requirements of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Steven Archer, head of Verizon Business Innovation Incubator Group. The security offering allows healthcare providers to comply with provisions of the HITECH Act that require "strong identity" credentials for accessing and sharing patient data starting in mid-2011.

Multi-factored identity credentialing authenticates a user’s ID through several factors, such as user name, password and software token. The Verizon ID credentials available to U.S. healthcare professionals allows up to 15 different form factors to be leveraged, said Archer.

There is currently no universal means of issuing multi-factored identity credentials to U.S. healthcare professionals. Making these security credentials available free to licensed healthcare providers such as doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, will encourage the exchange of patient information, helping clinicians meet the HITECH Act’s meaningful use requirements, said Archer.

Verizon will begin issuing the ID credentials in January.

The multi-factored identity credentials also can be used as a single identity by healthcare professional to securely access other healthcare systems, databases and applications. “This provides a secure path enabling authentication capabilities on other platforms,” said Archer.

Healthcare Innovators

Healthcare Innovators

Slideshow: Healthcare Innovators (click image for larger view and for full slideshow)

If a doctor that’s signed up for Verizon’s free data exchange services tries to electronically send patient data to another physician that’s not yet on the exchange, the non-member will receive a fax with directions on accessing the data via the Verizon physician web-portal using a one-time password. That non-member physician will also receive instructions for registering on the exchange and getting the free identity credentials, said Archer.

Verizon’s Medical Data Exchange was unveiled in March to facilitate the point-to-point sharing of digitized dictated notes among doctors and from transcription services providers to physicians. However, last month Verizon expanded its Medical Data Exchange to allow sharing of a broader range of structured and unstructured patient data, including lab reports, X-rays and e-medical record data. Whether the Verizon ID credentialing will be widely adopted for use as a single identity by U.S. healthcare providers on other clinical systems and applications is difficult to predict, said Amy DeCarlo, a principal analyst at research firm Current Analysis.

However, through the offering of free medical identity credentials, Verizon is currently the only services provider going after the healthcare professional market in “such a broad way,” she said.

It’s unlikely that all 2.3 million licensed healthcare professional in the U.S eligible to participate in the Verizon program will register for the free ID credentials, DeCarlo said. However, “even if Verizon gets a small percentage signed up that, it’s significant,” she said.

While the web-portal access to data is available free to healthcare professionals in their practices, Verizon generates revenue through the services it provides to hospitals, large healthcare organizations and medical transcription companies that are using the Verizon exchange to share patient data.

About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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