North York General Hospital Uses Advanced Technology to Enhance Patient-Centric Care
North York General Hospital (NYGH) is one of Canada’s leading community academic hospitals, offering a wide range of acute, ambulatory and long-term care services across its three facilities. Established in 1968 in the north central region of Toronto, the hospital currently has over 5,000 staff, physicians and volunteers.
NYGH is the first acute care hospital in Canada to be presented with the prestigious Davies Award of Excellence, in recognition for its eCare initiative; an innovative hospital-wide information technology transformation project. NYGH joins an elite group of only 50 hospitals in the world to receive the coveted award since its creation in 1994 by the renowned Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
TECHNOLOGY AS AN ENABLER
The use of leading-edge technology to advance its excellence in integrated patient-centered care is further demonstrated by a recent initiative to facilitate the secure exchange of information between physicians, healthcare staff and patients. Given the highly sensitive nature of the communications, the project includes a foundational layer that utilizes cryptography – and the secure management of cryptographic keys – to ensure that all interactions remain confidential and completely unintelligible for everyone other than the message sender and legitimate recipient.
The initiative focused on bringing medical staff and patients closer together through the deployment of enhanced online communications. In-person consultations would be supplemented with exchanges using PCs and mobile devices; enabling more timely and convenient interactions.
The hospital’s traditional way of securing its infrastructure had been through the use of firewalls to create rigid division between internal and external traffic. The need to embrace users located outside of the hospital’s boundaries – as required by the new project – dictated an enhancement of NYGH’s traditional security measures.
DESIGNING FOR GROWTH, FLEXIBILITY AND PRIVACY
The underlying design principle was that all communications, from any device or location, had to be completely private and secure. It also was imperative that the chosen security strategy didn’t restrict the growth of participants in the program as it gained popularity. In addition to providing robust protection, the architecture had to inherently ensure that there was sufficient flexibility to enable the use of a wide range of devices – including patient-owned mobile phones, medical appliances and ultimately IoT components – without locking the hospital into a narrow security paradigm.
As an important part of its due diligence, the hospital researched the best practices of other highly respected healthcare organizations. Having evaluated many different approaches, a decision was taken to implement an encryption-based strategy with a robust root of trust.
PARTNERING TO PROTECT
NYGH selected IDENTOS, a global provider of encryption services and solutions, and a Thales technology partner, to provide the security platform needed to run the service. The IDENTOS encryption as a service subscription platform is integrated with Thales nShield Connect hardware security modules (HSMs) to protect and manage the cryptographic keys within a hardened device.
NYGH utilizes the IDENTOS and Thales solution to ensure data is protected both in motion and at rest. As information is exchanged between clinicians and patients, nShield HSMs maintain a root of trust for the encryption keys used by the IDENTOS solution in a secure hardware environment – as required by industry security best practices. The nShield HSM enhances the security of the software-based solution.
nShield is fully compliant with the FIPS 140-2 standard defined by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE). Applicable in both the United States and Canada, FIPS 140 is the most widely adopted security benchmark for cryptographic solutions in government and commercial enterprises. The Thales HSM generates the NIST required Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) keys utilized by the IDENTOS data encryption platform.
The IDENTOS solution enables additional features and functionality to be added to the hospital’s environment without requiring changes to the underlying encryption solution, irrespective of the volumes of data being transferred. The automation of many administrative tasks, such as compliance reporting and key back-ups, enabled by the IDENTOS/Thales solution minimizes operational costs and reduces human error.
Sumon Acharjee, NYGH’s CIO and driving force behind the project, summarized, “Behind the scenes technology platforms are enabling healthcare providers to achieve significant improvements in patient care, efficiency, and safety delivering care. The IDENTOS and Thales security platform is a key part of our growing mobile strategy, enabling us to offer the convenience demanded by today’s mobile-savvy users and simultaneously further expand our admired culture of patientcentered care.”
THALES AND IDENTOS PROVIDE PLATFORM FOR GROWTH
- Provide secure connectivity for external users
- Utilize technology to help drive patient-centered culture
- Implement solution that doesn’t restrict growth and flexibility
- End-to-end protection of traffic
- Identify encryption solution that adheres to multiple compliance standards
- Utilize hardware-based encryption rather than a software-oriented approach
- IDENTOS Encryption as a Service integrated with Thales nShield HSMs
- Traffic that is leveraging the platform – including PII and PHI – is always secure
- Effective application of technology brings staff and patients closer together
- Foundation created for future growth and feature expansion
ABOUT THALES E-SECURITY
Thales e-Security is the leader in advanced data security solutions and services that deliver trust wherever information is created, shared or stored. We ensure that the data belonging to companies and government entities is both secure and trusted in any environment – on-premise, in the cloud, in data centers or big data environments – without sacrificing business agility. Security doesn’t just reduce risk, it’s an enabler of the digital initiatives that now permeate our daily lives – digital money, e-identities, healthcare, connected cars and with the internet of things (IoT) even household devices. Thales provides everything an organization needs to protect and manage its data, identities and intellectual property and meet regulatory compliance – through encryption, advanced key management, tokenization, privileged user control and high assurance solutions. Security professionals around the globe rely on Thales to confidently accelerate their organization’s digital transformation. Thales e-Security is part of Thales Group.