Imprivata were one of our exhibitors at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) conference which took place on 27-28 September 2022.

Virtual smartcards to support your ICS strategy

When it comes to meeting the challenges of integrated care, digital is viewed as an important enabler. At one time using physical smartcards to login to use systems and devices via readers was the only answer to control access – but now there is the possibility to provide streamlined, secure access to NHS Spine-enabled applications by means of a virtual smartcard.

A revolution in demand for secure access to systems and devices

Not so long ago healthcare was supported by giving a relatively small group of clinicians highly controlled access to select systems via thick client workstations within the relatively secure environment of hospital buildings. The last decade has seen a rapid increase in the numbers of systems and devices available and the need to provide access to these systems and data outside the traditional hospital boundaries, such as via remote clinics and through telehealth solutions.

At the same time there have been workforce changes with more staff needing access and more transient and temporary workers. The pandemic has driven the need for home working and for access via employees’ own personal devices. On top of this the evolution of the ICS strategy is driving a need for more collaboration between organisations. This requires shared access to data and systems, while maintaining rigorous safety, security and auditability standards.

The COVID 19 pandemic also brought into sharp focus the difficulties for Registration Authorities (RA) in printing and distributing large numbers of physical smartcards and the need to procure card readers for remote users. In addition, end users coming onsite to collect cards was problematic due to COVID restrictions. The control of smartcards becomes even more difficult when collaboration between organisations is required to support integrated care.

A new solution was needed and Imprivata worked with NHS Digital to develop and gain assurance for the Imprivata Virtual Smartcard which addresses these challenges to provide fast, secure No Click Access® to NHS Spine-enabled applications without the need for physical cards. 

To learn more about how Imprivata provides a smarter approach to NHS spine-enables access watch this short animation.

What exactly is a virtual smartcard?

Imprivata Virtual Smartcard, which is part of Imprivata Spine Combined Workflow Plus, removes the need for a physical smartcard and provides fast, secure access to NHS Spine-enabled applications. The Imprivata solution was created in response to the numerous growing and changing needs which were exacerbated during the COVID pandemic. In addition to providing rapid, simple but secure access, Imprivata Virtual Smartcard addresses the specific challenges of:

  • remote working
  • on-boarding bank, locum, student, and new staff
  • shortages in the supply of physical cards and readers
  • problematic smart printer
  • the need to rapidly set-up new locations

NHS Digital has now approved the use of card-less solutions within the NHS, and on Tuesday 20 September Imprivata Spine Combined Workflow Plus and Imprivata Virtual Smartcard received full assurance following successful pilots. Read the full statement about Imprivata Virtual Smartcard on the NHS Digital Website: or in our press release.

Imprivata Spine Combined Workflow Plus with virtual smartcard integrates with Imprivata OneSign to allow access to spine-enabled applications automatically, following a two-factor login to the desktop such as badge tap and pin, without the need for an NHS smartcard to be used throughout the working day. As well as saving significant amounts of time spent waiting to login into systems during a shift, this addresses several issues with physical smartcards that are often seen as an inconvenient security barrier for clinicians when treating patients. Imprivata Virtual Smartcard eliminates staff workarounds, such as leaving smartcards in readers and sharing credentials. It improves security, supports compliance with NHS information governance standards, and increases clinicians’ productivity, allowing them to focus more on patient care and less on technology.

To see the solution in action, watch this demo video.

Imprivata Virtual Smartcard in action

As part of the NHS Digital assurance process for Imprivata Virtual Smartcard, which included attaining Cyber Essentials Plus certification and completing the NHS Data Security Protection Toolkit, a successful pilot project was completed at South Tees Hospitals NHS FT to validate the solution and the benefits of the virtual smartcards.

South Tees Hospitals NHS FT has almost 9,000 employees and serves more than 1.5 million people in Tees Valley & North Yorkshire. Their challenges when using physical smartcards during the pandemic included:

  • only 1 full-time RA member of staff for 4,000 smartcard users
  • support team located in a different building to main users - long walk to access
  • community staff must come on site for help even during a pandemic
  • issues obtaining bulk smartcards and reliable printers

South Tees virtual smartcard pilot project involved 20 clinical staff in Diabetes Care at South Tees. After virtual training done via Teams the benefits of Imprivata Virtual Smartcard included:

  • easy secure access to all Spine apps including SystmOne & ESR
  • 12-hour window of access & cards do not get locked out
  • IT has no cards to print; no hardware issues; no backlog

Angela Hopton, ICT System Support Services Manager, Registration Authority at the Trust said, “The pilot has been run in the Diabetes Care Centre, with positive feedback from clinicians. As well as providing a better experience for users, Imprivata Virtual Smartcard takes up significantly less resource for ICT, and there were no issues with sourcing physical cards or card readers.”

For more information about the South Tees pilot read our mini-case study.

What’s the value of time for your clinical and IT teams?

From several clinical studies, Imprivata has found that benchmark time-savings across the NHS resulted in 20 minutes per person, per shift, based on 28 seconds per login.

NHS spine access is a fundamental requirement for clinicians, but traditional physical smartcards are inefficient, costly, and time-consuming. Try out our ROI calculator to get an indication of the savings you could make by switching to the Imprivata virtual smartcard.

Would you like to learn more?
To find out more, visit the Imprivata website, watch our on-demand webinar or get in touch for a demo.

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