Radiology centre accesses remote data without a VPN

A radiology centre in northern Ontario is remotely accessing data without the use of a virtual private network.

Dave Williams, president and CEO of Thunder Bay Medical Centre Diagnostics & Fort William Diagnostics Ltd., started using Route1‘s MobiKey in December, when a family member introduced it to him. Now Williams uses the technology to check up on his clinics while he’s away on business.

Route1 provides a combination of technologies that allow health-care workers to access computing resources from any Internet-enabled PC, including Picture Archival and Communications Systems (PACS), Healthcare Information Systems (HIS) and Radiology Information Systems (RIS) – while still complying with regulatory requirements around privacy.

“I can log into my computer in my office if I want to work on reports or letters while I’m away on a business trip,” said Williams. “It keeps me in touch so I have less anxiety about being away than I used to.”

His partner at the centre also uses MobiKey to remotely access medical imaging information. “We’ve gone a step further and have virtual computers created by the same company, and then those virtual computers will hold all the images the real computer would hold,” he said, adding this is faster than using a VPN.

The centre previously used a VPN, but it would take 15 minutes to go through a case remotely, whereas on-site they could get through five or 10 cases in that amount of time. Using MobiKey, each case is slightly slower than in the centre. “So it’s comparable to actually being at the computer (in the centre),” he said.

But it’s not a VPN, he added, which some people mistakenly compare it to. The connection is made to health-care resources from behind the corporate firewall, so there is no risk of a security breach.

Route1’s server-based solution combines MobiKey (a portable computing device that connects users to desktop and network resources from any Internet-enabled Windows-based PC) and MobiNet, a service delivery platform for secure identity management.

In some cases – particularly in rural parts of the country – doctors have to travel to distant locations in order to read radiology reports at a radiology centre. This technology allows them to access those reports and read them on their own PC, said Mike Larkin, senior vice-president of worldwide sales with Route1. But they can’t download any content to the remote device, so the content stays secure inside the health-care environment.

“It’s what we call two-factor authentication,” he said. “There’s a SIM smart card inside the device and our software has cryptography on board.” When a user plugs into a distant location, they’re authenticated to Route1’s service and connected to their desktop via an SSL-encrypted channel.

“There’s no transfer of information over the Web,” said Williams. “It’s pulling you to the computer so people can’t hack in, whereas the VPN is actually pulling and pushing information back and forth.”

The MobiKey costs around $449, and users sign on for first year of coverage over MobiNet. MobiKey looks like a USB storage device, which is plugged into the USB port of a user’s computer, and that computer would read the device like a CD. When the user removes the key from the computer, he or she can plug that key into any other Windows-compatible PC in order to access their desktop remotely.

“It has the ability of extending the reach of health-care workers outside of the traditional hospital environment,” said Larkin, “and also the ability to expedite the processing of medical imaging information to the benefit of patients, if in fact there are problems with any images being viewed.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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