SSO what else is new?

I just checked, and it's been at least 12 years since I first advocated a simplified sign-on (SSO) approach to reducing user interactions with authentication sessions. You'd think that, by now, SSO would be part of everyone's identity and access management (IAM) tool kit -- where's the downside of simplifying authentication for your users?

So it was with a sense of frustration that I read the results of a recent Ponemon Institute survey called "How Single Sign-On Is Changing Healthcare" (the press release was headlined: "Ponemon study discovers inefficient access to patient information costs hospitals an average $2M per year"). The study showed that the average clinician spends 122 hours a year (three weeks) trying to access various forms of electronic medical records (EMR), mostly caused by the overabundance of passwords and logins being managed to access the applications needed to assess patient care.

DO'S AND DON'TS: One security implementer shares his single sign-on best practices

More than 400 healthcare IT representatives and clinicians responded to the survey. Among the numbers revealed:

• SSO technology saves clinicians an average of 9.51 minutes a day (122 hours per year).

• This time savings is translated into an estimated $2,675 per clinician each year which yields a total annual savings of more than $2.6 million.

• 83% of respondents believe SSO simplifies access to applications and data.

• The study found that prior to SSO, users had an average of 6.4 passwords or PINs required to access critical applications and patient data.

• Approximately 70% of respondents believe SSO is important or very important to the adoption of EMR and related systems.

• 60% of all respondents believe SSO solutions support their organizations' efforts to demonstrate the "meaningful use" of EMR and related information.

• On average, respondents said they have 51 applications using single sign-on.

• 80% of SSO users would recommend the technology to others.

Admittedly, the study was sponsored by Imprivata, a leader in SSO services, but the results are still valid: SSO saves time, saves money, reduces help desk calls and can significantly improve security -- what's not to like?

Download (PDF) the study (after registering) and see for yourself.

Interestingly, while trying to find my first mention of SSO I came across my first mention of Imprivata. Back in 2003 I talked about the first release of OneSign, their SSO appliance. I liked the product, but not their marketing. What I said was: "It is a company to watch, but here's hoping they forget the 'straw man' arguments and try to sell based on the strengths of their own product." And that's what they did.

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