Network integration specialist Scalable Networks has teamed up with Hounslow Primary Care Trust to set up a new home and roaming access service for 700 staff.

The system has been set up to prepare the trust for its implementation of CSE-Servelec’s web-based Electronic Care Record system, RiO, at the end of next month. RiO will allow community healthcare professionals to access data, such as patient records, on the road, and will be delivered by BT as part of the NHS IT programme.

Graeme Hollocks, IT manager at Hounslow PCT, told E-Health Insider: “A lot of our staff, mostly directors and senior staff, wanted to be able to perform their daily tasks from the comfort of home or when they were away from the office and so we looked into a solution that would allow them to do this in the most secure way possible.”

Hollocks added that Scalable Networks appealed to them due to its ability to securely provide staff with access to work tools and data from home.

“The RiO system seemed ideal for us to provide this, as it provides a secure real-time version of the system staff work with in the office and can easily be logged into via the web and using authentication codes known only to the user. Scalable Networks have helped us set up the system so it can be accessed remotely and has the most watertight security possible,” said Hollocks.

Hounslow PCT opted for Scalable’s virtual private network (VPN) with two-factor authentication and Steve Wallgate, Scalable’s senior account manager for the project told EHI this would ensure that security was at the maximum level.

“Any computer with an internet connection can log onto the software via the internet, but the system is very secure. Once logged in, the secure socket layer (SSL) system will not allow access to the data centre without valid authentication, which will be provided by an external authentification hardware device, the access details to which will be known by only the user.”

Scalable will provide Hounslow PCT staff with VASCO authentication hardware in the form of a USB key-fob. They claim that the technology will make it ‘impossible to be broken into.’

Hollocks told EHI: “We had to ensure that there would be no breaches of patient confidence by using a remote service like this. Doctors and nurses can use laptops and PDAs to remotely input patient notes, rather than writing paper-based notes when they do house visits now so we had to ensure that there was a restriction on access to these records.”

He added that security was the biggest concern that needed addressing and every effort has been made to make sure this was as firm as possible.

“Whilst we have kept use of the system relatively simple, we have worked with Scalable to make the system as secure as possible. Users must log into the remote access using their individual access codes and then must log into RiO using different access codes. With the majority of breaches resulting from internal misuse, it was essential that the additional security processes were watertight.”

Wallgate added: “The VASCO authentification device will eliminate most of the potential risks to security breaches. Unless a user leaves the VASCO fob in their notebook, then a thief won’t be able to use the system.”

Over 100 staff have used the remote access since it was first deployed a fortnight ago and according to Scalable, feedback has been positive.

Simon Brown, director of Scalable Networks said: “With many PCTs deploying on-the-road applications such as RiO, the platform upon which you build a remote working architecture needs to be secure, agile and easy to use – from an IT and end-user perspective.”

Wallgate added: “Home and Roam access is a key requirement for the health sector. Staff need flexibility and with the latest in 3G technology we can offer that. In doing this, patients can get maximum attention and doctors can save later administration teams. We already work with Basildon & Thurrock and Bedfordshire Hospital and we hope to see more healthcare companies looking to this technology.”