Imprivata virtual smartcard strategy

Imprivata Hall: N11 - N16 Stand: L72


The impact of COVID-19 on the use of technology

The coronavirus pandemic has driven unprecedented adoption of technology in the NHS and changed the way services are delivered at an incredible pace. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the UK in early 2020, the NHS was seeking to enhance and expand the application of digital technologies, with the government placing a strategic focus on integrating digital technology more widely throughout health and care organisations.

Working closely with NHS bodies and NHS Trusts, Imprivata digital identity solutions help to improve the safety, efficiency, and productivity of healthcare workers. IT departments within healthcare have dealt with many new challenges throughout this year, ranging from standing up new temporary hospitals, the shift to remote working, the use of telehealth, and the rapid onboarding of new staff to support increasing demands. With healthcare providers embracing new technologies and new ways of working, there are opportunities to go much further and to use technology in even more effective ways to help clinicians in the current crisis and in the longer term. It is predicted that many of these changes will be “here to stay,” a viewpoint supported by NHS Digital CEO, Sarah Wilkinson1.

Access challenges

According to many NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), one of the main technology challenges they are facing relates to providing access for remote workers and new staff. At the start of the pandemic, large volumes of users across the NHS were sent home to work remotely in an effort to keep them safe, minimise staff numbers, and reduce the footprint for transmission of the virus within healthcare institutions. The outcome that these changes have made is that accessing the NHS Spine has become increasingly difficult with many users having smartcards but no readers or devices that would support them.

Furthermore, many of the additional staff onboarded to cope with the pandemic also required access to the Spine, necessitating significant volumes of extra smartcards and associated equipment. Enrolling new users with smartcards created logistical challenges from supply and demand to the increased risk associated with the traditional process of in-person enrolment and collection of the smartcard from an on-site department.

As a result, the COVID pandemic created significant workflow disruption when accessing the NHS Spine using traditional smartcard technology. To mitigate these challenges, NHS Digital provided card-less solutions to NHS Trusts and CCGs, and adjusted security guidelines to accommodate

their use.

Imprivata recognises the emerging requirements for physical smartcard- less access brought about by the varying challenges of remote working, the influx of additional staff, lack of cards and readers, and the rapid set up of new temporary locations. These near-term problems align with the authentication and access section of the Imprivata digital identity framework, outlined later in this paper. The challenges these problems create will be addressed by the Imprivata strategic vision for high- assurance digital identity as part of a unified identity and access management (IAM) strategy.


Over time, healthcare will shift towards more modern technologies and improved identification, authentication, and federation standards for both local and national access with newer technologies and developments.


Imprivata virtual smartcard strategy

Imprivata is committed to and is invested in delivering a world-class virtual smartcard solution which will integrate in to the existing Imprivata digital identity ecosystem and achieve a balance of security, efficiency, and usability. Imprivata understands our customers’ needs and works closely with central NHS bodies on a short- and long-term strategy which addresses the emerging problems outlined above and aligns our longer- term healthcare vision to resolve these challenges. Answering the near- term needs of our customers, whilst remaining focused on the major shift in healthcare towards high assurance digital identity and ever-increasing modern workflow requirements, is the key to providing a long-term solution. Over time, healthcare will shift towards more modern technologies and improved identification, authentication, and federation standards for both local and national access with newer technologies and developments. As this occurs, Imprivata will be there to help our customers every step of the way.


Key features of the Imprivata virtual smartcard solution:

  • A secure, card-less solution that will remove the challenges brought about by the need for smartcards and readers and the challenges of remote working and remote administration.
  • Leveraging the power of Imprivata OneSign® Spine Combined Workflow with virtualisation of the NHS Spine smartcard delivers an end-to-end Spine access solution. Combining these two technologies allows for initial authentication to the Spine and near-instant re- authentication to during a shift.
  • Virtual smartcards will be supported by the existing well-known registration authority process.
  • Virtual smartcards are held securely on-premises in the Imprivata appliance and are complimented by the end-to-end security of Imprivata OneSign.
  • Works in harmony with all existing Spine-enabled applications.
  • No requirement for additional hardware or smartphones. Virtual smartcards will support the Imprivata multifactor authentication already in use.
  • An integral part of the Imprivata digital identity platform.
  • Leverages state of the art, secure, and standard technologies for interoperability and optimum security.

Healthcare organisations need a framework approach to drive their IAM strategy, one that puts clinical roles, workflows, and the healthcare IT environment at its core — to face healthcare’s unique challenges in these unprecedented times.

Imprivata customers already enjoying the numerous benefits of Imprivata OneSign will be able to seamlessly integrate the Imprivata virtual smartcard solution into their existing clinical workflows and deploy rapidly, at scale.

The Imprivata virtual smartcard solution will further enhance existing Spine capabilities and, coupled with other Imprivata solutions like single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and identity governance, provide NHS organisations with a unified digital identity strategy built on the Imprivata suite of IAM solutions. Imprivata is committed to developing a world-class virtual smartcard solution and will be delivering this to the NHS in the first half of 2021.


How Imprivata can help with secure access

NHS organisations have evolved into highly complex environments with many users and roles, locations, devices, and applications. Users and roles have multiplied, locations now extend beyond the hospital’s four walls, machines now include shared workstations and mobile devices, and applications are delivered from on-premises and, increasingly, from the cloud. This hypercomplex environment demands a unified, security- and efficiency-focused structure for managing identities across the healthcare delivery organisation’s complex ecosystem.

Healthcare organisations need a framework approach to drive their IAM strategy, one that puts clinical roles, workflows, and the healthcare IT environment at its core — to face healthcare’s unique challenges in these unprecedented times.

Imprivata works globally with over 2,400 healthcare organisations – the de facto leader in digital identity for healthcare – and has seen first-hand some of the innovative and transformative ways technology has been used to support clinicians and the patients they are treating during this difficult time. In the UK, hospitals are using Imprivata Mobile on shared clinical mobile devices to provide virtual visits to patients; primary and acute healthcare organisations are providing remote access to thousands of staff in a matter of hours using Imprivata Confirm ID® for Remote Access; and Imprivata OneSign continues to provide fast, secure, efficient, and simplified access for clinicians working across the whole hospital including COVID-19 infection control zones and temporary hospitals.

About Imprivata

Imprivata, the digital identity company for healthcare, provides identity, authentication, and access management solutions that are purpose-built to solve healthcare’s unique workflow, security, and compliance challenges.

Over the past five years, Imprivata has developed and delivered solutions specifically for the NHS, including Imprivata OneSign Spine Combined Workflow to address the needs of NHS clinicians accessing the Spine.

Imprivata OneSign Spine Combined Workflow removes the workflow complexity of accessing the Spine by managing access automatically for the end user. Once users have performed their initial Spine authentication, at the beginning of their shift, they can then enjoy automated Spine access by leveraging Imprivata multifactor authentication without the need for their NHS smartcard. Access to Spine-enabled applications remains secure, with speed and efficiency greatly improved.

When used together, Imprivata IAM solutions fulfil a comprehensive digital identity strategy that enables efficient, secure, and compliant access to the systems, applications, and data that clinicians need to deliver quality care.

For further information please contact us at

+44 (0)208 744 6500

or visit us online at



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Dates and venue

26-27 APRIL 2023 + ExCeL LONDON