London Ambulance Service using biometrics and iPads to access patient data
Ambulance-assigned personnel will have access to critical patient information, with a method significantly improved in comparison with the previous authentication system that used card-based two-factor authentication. NHS Smartcards resemble chip and PIN bank cards and grant access to records for over 800,000 users. There have been issues reported with this system such as unauthorized card-sharing and card loss.
The new iPad-based biometric-enabled system is pioneered by London Ambulance Service, and replaces the NHS Smartcard.
“We don’t have them – we use iPads to digitally access the core NHS systems because the iPad has enough security features that can do that. And it’s been a lot of work with NHS Digital to make that a reality. But having done that, you now just use your thumbprint to unlock the iPad and access records,” explains Ross Fullerton, CIO at the London Ambulance Service (LAS).
Fullerton further adds the goal was to restructure the current process, and because health professionals are already accustomed to the NHS Smartcard, the challenge was to figure out how to make the iPad the center of the biometric authentication process. The hardest part, he says, was focusing on engagement and getting approval from senior decision makers.
“We needed to make sure the relevant people were happy to say ‘yes’,” he says. “We’ve done that by working really closely with NHS Digital to tackle things like governance, to tackle all the information security barriers, and to take away the myths that suggest an iPad is not secure enough to identify.”
Fullerton added: “We wanted to explain the approach to our medical colleagues who make decisions around safeguarding of data and give them confidence that this is at least as good – if not actually quite a lot better – than an NHS Smartcard that can be left on a desk.”
The system was first tested for 16 weeks in 2019 with 60 doctors at Camden Ambulance Station in London who successfully used iPads to access Summary Care Records. A top perk is that the devices can be carried on the road out of the hospital. So far, 4,500 iPads have been issued to staff.
“You’ve then got access to all the patient records that we never had access to on the road, so that is transformational,” says Fullerton. “Our staff absolutely love the fact that it’s really easy – it’s not another password and another thing to remember. It’s access to the basic information they need about a patient to deliver better care on-scene.”
Pharmacists are already testing the system, and the plan is to launch trials in other areas such as dentistry. Future plans for LAS include enhanced functionality and availability, training more professionals to use the iPads, and possibly adding Android functionality in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Last month, the U.K. government announced a £40 million (US$52 million) investment in multi-factor authentication technology to upgrade NHS staff computer login system and reduce employee login time.
A new report from Frost & Sullivan on the global healthcare biometrics market says revenue growth is strong, driven by worldwide adoption of electronic health records and supported by the rise of smart, connected healthcare systems. The 53-page report forecasts industry growth to 2024.