The Smart Way to Safer Hospitals - Page 2

Contactless smart card technology has been used many years in other industries, and is now helping to solve some longstanding thorny issues in the healthcare sector: safeguarding patients and staff and protecting confidential patient information.

 By Holly Sacks
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With this many advantages, adopting contactless smart technology seems like a no-brainer. But some hospitals are still using the most basic form of secure access control: the magnetic stripe – or ‘mag-stripe' – card, where magnetic data is stored on the back of the card.

While mag-stripe cards are cheap to produce, they can end up more expensive in terms of maintenance.  Magnetic stripe cards come in contact with the reader when  inserted, and any debris that collects on the card inevitably ends up inside the reader and on its contact pins. They are also susceptible to magnetic interference and wear and tear: constant swiping through the card reader causes the stripe to deteriorate and eventually fail. This type of card is also very restricted in terms of its data storage capacity compared to that of smart cards, some of which now have up to 164K of memory.

But perhaps their biggest disadvantage is that they are very easy to clone. You can even buy a mag-stripe reader from a high-street store that will let you take data off one of these cards and use it to create an unlimited number of clones.

It's fair to say that the cost of upgrading to contactless smart cards can be a barrier to deployment for some hospitals, where funding priorities can mean that management has to choose between upgrading physical and logical access systems and having another 30 patient beds. On the other hand, is it really possible to put a price on effective infection control or security in a maternity ward?

When you weigh up the costs of contactless smart card technology against the benefits, it can offer outstanding value to the healthcare sector, saving time and money, protecting patients and staff and safeguarding their personal data. Portable and secure, contactless smart cards are fast becoming a valuable tool for safeguarding physical security and guaranteeing the privacy of sensitive electronic information.

HID Global is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2010, the No. 1 industry event in Europe held on 27th – 29th April in its new venue Earl's Court, London. The event provides an unrivalled free education programme, exhibitors showcasing new and emerging technologies and offering practical and professional expertise. For further information please visit www.infosec.co.uk

This article was originally published on Jan 11, 2010
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