Security and data breaches are a major concern for every organization. Companies in the healthcare sector are especially vulnerable: they are a top target for cybercriminals because the black market value of medical data is exceptionally high. According to Experian, medical data sells for more on the dark web than credit card information or other financial records.

Moreover, data breaches come with many implications. Not only do they damage the company’s reputation, but they’re also expensive. When it comes to the financial impact of data breaches, healthcare suffers greater losses than any other industry. According to a 2020 study by IBM, the costs incurred by data breaches in healthcare reach $7.13 million annually compared to the global average of $3.86 million.

To protect companies from the dire consequences of data breaches, security specialists have developed innovative technologies that make identity theft increasingly difficult, if not impossible. The most effective of these solutions is multi-factor authentication (MFA).

MFA requires users of a website or application to identify themselves using two or more verification factors as evidence that they are who they say they are. Thanks to this, modern MFA solutions can completely replace passwords and other identification methods that are easy to hack. This immediately increases account security and decreases the likelihood of unauthorized parties gaining access to sensitive records.

The healthcare industry should look to global tech giants like Microsoft that have already recognized the importance of using MFA. “Your password doesn’t matter, but MFA does! Based on our studies, your account is more than 99.9% less likely to be compromised if you use MFA,” said Alex Weinert, Partner Director of Identity Security at Microsoft in a recent article.

Now, let’s dig deeper into the topic of MFA in healthcare. We’ll explore the benefits of multi-factor authentication for healthcare, the challenges of adopting MFA, and the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a healthcare MFA provider.

What is multi-factor authentication?

To grasp the essence of multi-factor authentication, it’s important to first understand the flaws of its counterpart, single-factor authentication.

Single-factor authentication is a method that asks users to provide a single piece of information such as a PIN or a password when logging into a network or device. The issue with this is that passwords are easy to steal. They are extremely vulnerable to hacking and social engineering attacks like phishing (when an attacker masquerading as a trusted entity tricks a user into revealing sensitive information).

On the other hand, multi-factor authentication asks users to present at least two pieces of evidence to prove their identities. These can be:

  • Knowledge factors: something you know, for example, a password or a PIN code.
  • Possession factors: something you have, for example, a credit card, a smartphone, or other tokens.
  • Biometric factors: something you are, for example, biometric data from fingerprint scan or face recognition.
  • Location-based factors: somewhere you are, for example, your geolocation (GPS) or a connection to a specific computer network.

The most rudimentary form of MFA is two-factor authentication, which requires evidence of something the user knows and something they have. For example, an ATM asking for a PIN code and a credit card.

Nowadays, more secure MFA solutions that require three or four authentication factors are becoming widely adopted. For example, TraitWare can provide up to 4-factor authentication and completely eliminate the need for usernames and passwords. It does this by:

  • Identifying a device that is unique to an individual (possession factor)
  • Registering unique digital traits from the device (knowledge factor)
  • Using fingerprints and facial images from a smartphone or tablet (biometric factor)
  • Checking for pre-approved locations that can be set up in the Traitware app (location-based factor)

Find out more about TraitWare’s passwordless MFA solution.

What are the benefits of multi-factor authentication in healthcare?

Multi-factor authentication for healthcare has many benefits. Let’s start with the most obvious one and work our way to the less obvious but equally important aspects of implementing MFA in healthcare.

1. Security: MFA prevents identity theft and data breaches

As we’ve seen above, multi-factor authentication decreases the reliance on easily hackable usernames and passwords. This is fundamentally important because we live in a world where hackers are constantly waiting for opportunities to gain access to sensitive information.

By eliminating the need for a password, true passwordless MFA solutions like Traitware prevent identity theft, brute force attacks (when a hacker tries to crack a password by guessing it), and phishing.

2. Speed: MFA allows companies to save time and money

Not only is MFA more secure, but it also takes a fraction of the time. Traditional identification methods can get clunky and slow, resulting in a loss of productivity.

For example, many healthcare companies require their employees to use a new key on top of a long and complicated password every time they log in. They also require users to change their passwords periodically, which makes them impossible to remember but very easy to lose. And, it leads to severe password fatigue – employees get frustrated by having to remember too many passwords.

On the other hand, MFA speeds up the process significantly by simplifying logins and making them frictionless for the user. With Traitware, there’s no need to remember a single password – all users need to identify themselves is a smartphone or a tablet. And, by increasing productivity and removing the need for constant password resets, TraitWare also helps companies cut costs.

3. User-friendliness: MFA drives the adoption of security best practices

Last but not least, the user-friendly design of modern MFA solutions allows healthcare companies to improve their workflows. This translates into simplifying the adoption of security best practices.

If healthcare practitioners and other staff experience added security not as a hindrance to their work but as an enhancement of their daily routines, the company’s efforts to strengthen its security measures will not be met with resistance.

But for this, security needs to be native in the technology, not just a bolt-on solution. Many companies attempt to create a patchwork of security practices piled on top of each other that overcomplicate the login process. Patented technologies like TraitWare’s MFA provide additional layers of security without adding extra steps for the user.

The challenges of implementing MFA in healthcare and how to overcome them

Many companies see implementing MFA in healthcare as too big of an undertaking. However, that’s not always the case. The potential challenges of adopting MFA are easy to overcome when working with the right provider and managing the adoption process correctly. Let’s take a look at these challenges and how to deal with them.

1. Integration

Every time a company wants to adopt a new set of tools, the question of software integration comes up. MFA can only be effective if it seamlessly integrates with the company’s existing system.

However, there’s no need to be concerned. Modern MFA providers are prepared for this challenge and provide solutions that are easy to integrate.

For example, TraitWare’s plug-and-play solution can be integrated with just about any system used in healthcare. It can also be customized to suit the company’s needs and embedded into any existing apps.

2. Usability

One of the biggest concerns that healthcare companies have when it comes to adopting MFA has to do with usability – and with good reason. When adding extra layers of security to a computer system, it’s crucial not to create inefficiencies that frustrate users or hinder patient care. 

Fortunately, there’s a way to make MFA seamlessly blend into a healthcare employee’s daily routine. And that’s using single sign-on (SSO).

Single sign-on is an authentication method that allows users to log in once and access a variety of services and applications without having to repeatedly enter their authentication factors. Thanks to this, choosing a provider like TraitWare that supports SSO makes the use of MFA significantly easier for users.

Other ways to improve the usability of MFA include choosing a risk-based approach – in other words, only adopting a more rigorous login process when warranted by security risk, instead of enforcing it across the board.

This can be paired with solutions that make MFA even more convenient for users. For example, sending users authentication codes via push notifications or text messages. Or, going the flexible route and letting users choose the verification options they prefer.

3. Management

Thirdly, the management of a complex security solution like MFA can seem daunting – but it doesn’t have to be. Providers like TraitWare offer self-onboarding which takes the burden of micro-management off the company’s shoulders. Employees can learn to use the tool by themselves and only need to reach out to administrators when they need support.

6 things to consider when choosing an MFA provider

To recap, here are 6 features to look for when choosing an MFA provider for healthcare:

1. Native MFA (not a bolt-on solution)

2. SSO: Guarantees a frictionless login experience for the user

3. Secure login with smartphone or tablet (without storing transferable critical info on devices)

4. Cloud-based and on-premise solutions

5. Extensive integration capabilities (plug-and-play solution)

6. Competitive pricing

Download our whitepaper on how Traitware can secure and simplify healthcare.