Telehealth Needs Secure Patient Identification Practices

Michael Magrath, Director of Healthcare Business Development, VASCO

Michael Magrath

Telehealth can become a game changer as it pertains to how care is delivered. And a very welcomed one at that. However, there is a danger that it is lacking even the very basic security mechanisms put in place by other heavy lifters in the digital services community such as banking and personal finance. I have attempted to find out why that is and if telehealth may put us, as patients, at risk for cybercrime and ID theft.

In the case of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), it defines telehealth as “as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.”

As wonderful as telehealth is, it comes with risks, particularly around trust and security. If we use the States as an example, I am well aware that telehealth service providers are HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – Compliant, but that is really just the floor in terms of security. With our healthcare system in the cross hairs of cyber criminals, “the floor” is no longer acceptable in the States and equally the security bar would need to be raised by the NHS.

Indeed, in America, some States require that the healthcare provider and the patient meet in-person before engaging in telehealth, while others have no such requirement. Applying equally in the UK, there would need to be a solid chain of trust throughout the system. That starts with knowing that the parties involved are who they claim to be. Is the patient really who they say they are? Perhaps it is the patient’s brother, an identical twin. Most important, is the healthcare provider who they claim they are? Telehealth could expose patients to this 21st century technology approach to fraud, identity theft, medical record errors and potential lawsuits.

As with all areas of healthcare, telehealth requires accurately identifying the patient. HHS cautions on its website, “Processes related to patient identification are complex and require careful planning and attention to avoid errors.” The fact is, physicians and other providers are trained in medicine and are typically not trained to identity proof patients, nor should they have to be bothered. Identity proofing should be performed by a third party, certified by a Government-approved Provider.

Moreover, patients have a right to know that the person on the other end of a videoconference call is really a doctor. Imposters posing as physicians and practicing medicine is not only illegal, but it runs the risk of undermining trust in the entire telehealth movement.

Beyond identity proofing, authenticating into telehealth systems needs to provide higher confidence and trust. Issuing a static password for parties to access telehealth is not acceptable and could lead to hacking of and the compromising of protected health information. I look forward to utilising telehealth in the future, but I will feel more reassured knowing that the NHS has taken the proper steps to know that I am who I am and also have elevated security and authentication beyond the floor to protect my privacy and security.

For more details about VASCO’s security solutions for healthcare visit

Michael Magrath, Director of Healthcare Business Development, VASCO

Gain control of health information at the patient point of care

Chris Strammiello, Vice President of Global Alliances & Strategic Marketing, Nuance Communications.

Gain control of health information at the patient point of care

Hospitals face the dual challenge of making patients’ health information easier to share while keeping it more secure – Smart technology at the MFP enables hospitals to gain control of this complex environment.

The growing use of smart devices at the point of care exacerbates the dual, yet contradictory, challenges confronting hospital IT directors and compliance officers: making patients’ health information easier to access and share, while at the same time keeping it more secure.

A major problem is that there are just too many touch points that can create risk when sharing protected health information (PHI) inside and outside of the hospital. In addition to securing communications on mobile phones, tablets and laptops, these tools can send output to smart multifunction printers (MFPs) that not only print, but allow walk-up users to copy, scan, fax and email documents. This functionality is why the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the States now defines MFPs as workstations where PHI must be protected. These protections need to include administrative, physical and technical safeguards that authenticate users, control access to workflows, encrypt data handled on the device and maintain an audit trail of all activity.

Accurate, effective and secure use of patient information at point of care

Hospitals need to adopt an approach that automatically provides security and control at the smart MFP from which patient information is shared and distributed. This approach must also support the use of mobile computing technologies, which are helping to bring access to patient information and electronic health records (EHR) to the point of care.

Advanced secure information technology and output management solutions can help hospitals protect patient health information by adding a layer of automated security and control to both electronic and paper-based processes. These solutions can minimise the manual work and decisions that invite human error, mitigate the risk of non-compliance and help hospitals avoid the fines, reputation damage and other costs of violations and privacy breaches.

With this approach, vulnerabilities with capturing and sharing PHI are reduced with a process that ensures:

• Authorisation — only authorised staff can access specific devices, network applications and resources with password or smartcard based authentication. Network authentication is seamlessly integrated with the document workflow and to ensure optimal auditing and security, the documents containing PHI are captured and routed to various destinations such as email, folders, fax and EHR systems.

• Authentication — user credentials must be verified at the device, by PIN/PIC code, proximity (ID), or by swiping a smart card access documents containing PHI. Once authenticated, the solution controls what users can and cannot do. It enables or restricts email or faxing and prohibits documents with PHI from being printed, faxed or emailed.

• Encryption — communications between smart MFPs and mobile terminals, the server and destinations, such as the EHR, are encrypted to ensure documents are only visible to those with proper authorisation.

• File destination control — simultaneously monitors and audits the patient information in documents, ensuring PHI is controlled before it is ever gets to its intended destination.

• Content filtering — automatically enforces security policies to proactively prevent PHI from leaving the hospital by filtering outbound communications and intercepting documents – rendering misdirected or intercepted information unreadable to unauthorised users.

Deploying smart computing technology to meet compliance

While it’s clear that hospitals continue to deploy smart technologies to deliver more efficient point of care to patients, those technologies continue to provide vexing security and compliance challenges. However, implementing a flexible and scalable solution that adds a layer of automated security and control to both electronic and paper-based processes significantly reduces non-compliance risks.

The solution should include five important attributes: authentication; authorisation; encryption; file destination control; and content filtering. For example, electronic orders, referrals, reports and other sensitive information can be completed on smartphones, tablets, or laptops, electronically signed and safely and securely delivered to EHR.

With these security enhancements in place, hospitals can confidently open their networks and gain control of smart device proliferation in their patient point of care processes.



Awarding organisation, SFJ Awards has released a new qualification that recognises the knowledge and skills required for healthcare professionals to conduct effective investigations in their workplace.

The development of the Level 5 Investigating Serious Incidents in Healthcare Qualification was led by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. It comes after the 2016 national review by the Care Quality Commission found that the NHS is missing opportunities to learn from patient deaths and that specialised training and support is not readily provided to staff completing investigations.

Representatives from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds Community Healthcare Trust, Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust formed a working group to develop the course which is now available nationally for quality assured centres to offer.

The qualification covers subject areas including the initial reviewing of an incident, investigative questioning and completing the investigation. Its introduction is intended to bring consistency to the investigative practices of healthcare organisations across the UK.

Louise Povey, Serious Incident Investigations and Learning Manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “In many years of delivering investigation training, it has always been frustrating that there is a lack of consistency in how investigations are conducted across NHS Trusts. I am thrilled that a recognised qualification has now been developed by SFJ Awards in conjunction with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

“The qualification will enable healthcare staff to plan an investigation, conduct interviews with staff to identify the contributory factors and root cause and to make recommendations to reduce the risk of recurrence. This will provide a consistent standard, maximise learning opportunities and provide a professional framework for investigators when submitting reports to commissioners, Coroners Court, CQC and partner agencies.”

Adrian Jackson, Managing Director of SFJ Awards said: “SFJ Awards is delighted to be offering this important new qualification, providing a standard for all investigators to work to and our commitment to maintaining and improving investigation skills in this area.

“SFJ Awards would like to thank Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust for leading this initiative and all of those involved for contributing to this development.”

Key points about the new Investigating Serious Incidents in Healthcare Qualification:

Subject areas covered by the qualification are:
the principles of investigating serious incidents
the initial review of an incident
investigating a serious incident
investigative questioning and interviews
completing an investigation
SFJ Awards will offer the qualification nationally, to maintain quality and consistency the qualification will only be available via selected quality assured centres.
The qualification includes an assessment element; trainees must complete multiple choice tests and practical examinations during a real-time investigation

More information on the Investigating Serious Incidents in Healthcare Level 5 Qualification is available from the SFJ Awards website or through contacting an advisor at or 0114 284 1970.

From the threat of closure to the Pride of Britain: London’s Air Ambulance launches digital timeline to mark 28 years saving lives in the capital

  • London’s Air Ambulance launches timeline telling story of the charity

The timeline shows the highs and lows of the charity, including its battles against adversity – from financial struggles to doubts about its potential to save lives.

Through archive press coverage, images, letters, videos and reports, the fight to establish the service to save patients detailed in the timeline.

  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan: “London’s Air Ambulance has made an incredible contribution to emergency care in the capital over the past 28 years. The Air Ambulance teams work tirelessly every day to respond to people in critical need of medical help and I hope Londoners will continue to support them so this vital service is maintained for many more years to come.”
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London’s Air Ambulance, the charity that delivers a 24/7 advanced trauma team to critically injured people in London, marks its 28th anniversary with the release of a digital timeline telling the story of the charity and how, if it wasn’t for a pioneering group of people and the generosity of the London public, the charity, that was recognised recently with a Pride of Britain award, may not have existed at all.

As with many great innovations, the service came to life with a casual encounter of like-minded individuals, its foundations conceived during a tennis match. The timeline shows the highs and lows of the charity, including its battles against adversity – from financial struggles to doubts about its potential to save lives.

When the concept of the air ambulance was challenged, London’s Air Ambulance’s patients and their families were often the first to come to the service’s defence in the press, sharing their stories in a show of support. In 1993, Paul Montgomery, who was saved after a road traffic collision in Slough, approached the media with a 650- name petition against cuts, saying “it would be criminal” to scrap the emergency medical helicopter service which brought benefit to the emergency services.

Thanks to the relentless dedication of staff support from the London Ambulance Service and Barts Health NHS Trust and with the generosity of the public and a range of organisations, London’s Air Ambulance emerged stronger than ever and has now established itself as one of London’s most beloved charities and a vital part of London’s emergency infrastructure, respected across the world for its innovation and education in pre-hospital care.

Dr Gareth Davies, London’s Air Ambulance Medical Director, commented:

The charity owes its existence to the vision and determination of Richard Earlam and Alastair Wilson, consultants at the Royal London Hospital, and to Andrew Cameron and Lord Stevens of the Daily Express. Without their foresight and resilience, the charity would not be here today.”

Through archive press coverage, images, letters, videos and reports, the fight to establish the service to save patients who were dying unnecessarily from traumatic injuries is detailed in the timeline. London’s Air Ambulance has attended and helped coordinate the medical response to many of the capital’s major incidents, including train crashes and bombings. On the day of the Bishopsgate Bombing, London’s Air Ambulance happened to be followed by a film crew for the ITV documentary series ‘Blues and Twos’ and the charity’s response was captured on camera, showing the unpredictable nature of the team’s daily work.

Responding to the release of the timeline Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:

London’s Air Ambulance has made an incredible contribution to emergency care in the capital over the past 28 years. The Air Ambulance teams work tirelessly every day to respond to people in critical need of medical help and I hope Londoners will continue to support them so this vital service is maintained for many more years to come.”

In 1989 London’s Air Ambulance flew its first mission, delivering organs for transplant to Scotland. In the intervening 28 years, London’s Air Ambulance has treated over 35,500 patients, many of whom may not have survived or been able to return to the lives they had before.

Speaking today for the first time is one of those patients, Yael, who was 15 when she was hit by a car on her way to school. She recalls her accident, which occurred 26 years ago, and explains what London’s Air Ambulance means to her:

I wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for London’s Air Ambulance. I lost four pints of blood, I had water on my lungs, broke my leg in several places and broke my shoulder. The shattered glass had also done lots of damage. It was so bad that the police told my school I was a fatality.”

I give to charity and I think the key thing with charities is that people like to see where their money is going. With London’s Air Ambulance you can see that. I am here. My three children are here.

Until this day, people in my parent’s neighbourhood remember the day and how my accident stopped the traffic. Now I am a driver and a mother myself. When I get stuck in traffic with my family, I always say ‘Thank God we are just in the traffic, not the cause of the traffic.’

I tell my kids that the reason I survived is so that I could have them and so that they could be really good people. I owe my life to London’s Air Ambulance.”

Dr Gareth Davies went on to say:

It is without a doubt that London’s Air Ambulance is here due to the pioneering determination of our founders and the support and generosity of the people of London. On behalf of all our patients and their loved ones, we are truly grateful and hope you share in the pride of all that we have achieved together.

Trauma or serious injury is the most common cause of death for people aged under 45, including children, in Britain. I urge everyone to continue to support the charity. Without you, we can’t help these people.”

Commenting on the release Chairman of London’s Air Ambulance Mark Vickers said:

The timeline shows the extraordinary effort and determination of a dedicated group of pioneers, advocates and supporters, whose contributions have been crucial in getting this extraordinary charity where it is today. I would like to say thank you to all the people who have served and supported us so faithfully over the past 28 years. From the medics, pilots and fire crew to the charity staff and volunteers, from our individual, corporate and institutional supporters to our partners Barts Health NHS Trust and London Ambulance Service – thank you for your unstinting support.”

To donate £5 to London’s Air Ambulance charity text SAVE to 70800

Haemorrhoids prevention is better than cure: it all starts with a healthy diet

All food that we introduce into our body has a direct effect on the health of the organism, in the short run but in the long run in particular. More than two thousand years ago, renowned Greek physician Hippocrates had already understood and theorised it, coining the famous expression “ Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”.

Unfortunately, modern lifestyles don’t promote a healthy diet: between work and family commitments, finding the time (and desire) to cook healthy dishes isn’t always easy, also considering that very often many people are forced to eat out. And so, almost inevitably, people fall in the trap of processed food rich in fat and sugar but low in vitamins and fibres, neglecting or even not consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, so important for wellbeing and disease prevention.

It should not surprise that constipation is a real scourge for the people who live in industrialised countries and in particular for women who are normally more subject to this type of problems; to say nothing of haemorrhoids, which are often the natural and inevitable evolution of chronic constipation.

The scenario is disturbing but the good news is that constipation can be effectively countered with just what nature gives us: whole foods rich in fibre, vegetables and seasonal fruits, yoghurt and probiotics that help reactivate bowel movements; without forgetting the consumption of at least a couple of litres of water per day and physical activity, even moderately (e.g., brisk walking, cycling), as long as it is constant. Through these strategies you will not only get an improvement of intestinal transit and a regression of constipation, but also a progressive decline of any haemorrhoidal problems.

If eventually constipation ceases but haemorrhoids persist, it is better to consult a physician as the situation might have reached a point that requires specific surgical treatment.

Among the most advanced methods in this area is the THD Doppler method, a minimally invasive conservative (no tissue is excised) surgical treatment that helps to have rapid healing and a rapid return to normal daily activities.

Chief nurse: ‘Cut hospital beds to increase care at home’

NHS care

NHS care

Cutting hospital beds and using the money for care at home could mean better treatment for patients, according to NHS England’s chief nursing officer.

Prof Jane Cummings writes in the Daily Telegraph that freeing up the money put into “old and expensive buildings” is one way the health service can improve.

Staying in hospital too long can often make patients more ill, she claims.

The Patients’ Association said social care and the NHS needed to integrate.

Prof Cummings said “outdated models of care” needed to change.
Personalised care

The article is in response to a review set up by the NHS which split England into 44 areas, ordering local managers and councils to come up with sustainability and transformation plans to improve efficiency.

Describing an NHS organisation in Devon, Prof Cummings said: “[It] wants to invest in home-based care, but it struggles because resources are currently tied up in hospital beds.”

“Many patients stay in those beds for too long, because home care is not available, often becoming more ill as a result.

“With more care provided at home, the NHS can spend more cash on patients rather than maintaining old and expensive buildings.

“And more people can be better looked after, with care personalised to their needs.”
‘Great strides’

Dr Mike Smith, a Patients’ Association trustee, said figures showed that patients recover more quickly if they are in a place they are happy with.

“In most cases, when they are not in need of acute services, this is in their own home,” he said.

“Quite often, out of hours and at weekends, the only way they can talk to a health care professional is to go to an A&E department and two out of five do not need to be there.”

He said the current system “had to change”, adding that NHS England was making “great strides” to integrate social care treatment.
‘Maximum value’

NHS England is estimated to spend about £820m a year treating older patients in hospital when they no longer need acute clinical care.

Prof Cummings said there would always be “vigorous debate” over how much money the government puts into the system.

She said the job of health professionals was to “squeeze the maximum value” from the budgets they were given.

“That means changing outdated models of care so that patients don’t fall into cracks between different parts of the system and ensuring that we provide care based around their needs, and not those of NHS organisations,” she said.

“Since 1948, the NHS has adapted itself constantly and it must continue to do so as the world and our health needs will continue to change.”

Read the full article on BBC here.

Surgical Errors and Medical Negligence Claims: Can the NHS Cut It?

A seemingly endless tide of surgical blunders that result in medical negligence claims shows no sign of abating. But what’s behind it, and how can you seek redress if you’re a victim?

Astonishing sums are being paid out for medical negligence claims in the UK — £1.4 billion by the NHS last year. It’s an unfortunate sign that there’s just no slowdown in medical errors and harm caused to patients who thought they were on the mend.

These huge payouts are necessary, however, to cover such things as loss of earnings, medical bills, travel expenses, revamping a house to cope with a disability, buying specialist equipment and much more when patients become victims.

So what’s behind this wave of calamities in the operating room?

We must first remind ourselves that, just like us, surgeons are only human and, all too frequently, humans do make mistakes. It’s one of the reasons why medical negligence claims concerning botched surgical procedures continue to rise. Patients go under the knife hoping to be better when they come to, but in some cases, they wake up to find something horrific has happened to them instead.

It may seem surprising, but it has emerged that on the most basic level, there can often be a failure to follow essential guidelines in the operating theatre. Some — but certainly not all — surgeons feel it unnecessary to adhere to an essential safety checklist while operating, which can lead to mistakes. This World Health Organisation guide, which NHS hospitals are required to use, ensures among other things that the surgical team know the patient’s name, mark out the surgical site and have enough spare blood available and of the right type.

Botched Surgeries and Medical Negligence Claims

Checklists and other causes of errors aside, there is no doubting that medical professionals working in the NHS today are under considerable pressure and strain. On the whole, they’re widely recognised as doing a tremendous job under enormous workloads and financial problems. That’s certainly not an excuse for surgical malpractice that may end up in medical negligence claims, but it does show that with the sheer number of patients passing through the health service each year — over a million people every 36 hours in England alone — mistakes are bound to happen.

And as growing numbers of people make medical negligence claims for what happened to them in surgery, a sort of vicious cycle is emerging. Medical professionals are becoming wary of performing procedures in case they end up in court — or worse, behind bars.

A leading NHS adviser has even warned of a level of fear among doctors and surgeons as prosecutors become ever more “energetic” about trying to get them convicted in the event of a botched operation. This unhealthy scenario could have the effect of denying people the kind of healthcare they need, purely because a surgeon does not want to carry out a procedure due to the potential risks.

So How Do You Deal with Surgical Negligence?

Operations and medical procedures are not, of course, always about a person’s health. Many times, they are about vanity: to enhance or reduce a body part to make the person look, and feel, better. Again, however, it doesn’t always go according to plan. A man is even suing his plastic surgeon following a facelift as he didn’t like his new-look smile.

Then there are the many cases of breast implants and the subsequent health issues the silicone material can cause. It can rupture or move, creating unbearable pain. More surgery is then required, and a whole lot of trauma goes along with it. So for these and medically necessary surgeries, how do you go about making medical negligence claims? Is it the surgeon or their team you sue? Or the institution itself, such as the NHS?

These questions and more are best answered by the very best personal injury solicitor you can get your hands on. Nowadays, this is made easier because there’s no need to come up with huge sums of money to hire the best in the legal business. That’s because many work on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning there’s zilch to pay to get a claim started.

Proving Medical Negligence Claims

It’s not all over once you’re signed up with a top solicitor who’s highly experienced in medical negligence claims. They have to go about the essential legwork of finding the evidence to prove the medical team acted wrongfully and caused you to suffer. It’s not always an easy task.

Did they get your informed consent before going ahead with a procedure? And where is the form? Did they follow the NHS-required checklist and operate on the right site? There are many things your solicitor will need to find out, involving deep investigations into the medical establishment to get the facts that can then be presented in court.

It can only be hoped that in the years ahead, far improved practices will be adopted in the operating theatre and elsewhere. As a result, medical negligence claims will come down — for patients throughout Britain, as well as the NHS.

Modern Authentication: Scott Clements, VASCO’s President and Chief Operating Officer, explains how the NHS can achieve the Balance between Security and Ease

Scott Clements

Scott Clements

Under the watchful eyes of regulators and, more alarmingly, cybercriminals, healthcare providers attempt to make their databases more accessible for access and sharing. One of the first elements that needs to be taken into account is authentication. Effective authentication is not only the first line of defence against efforts to limit unauthorised access, it can also be a cushion that softens the fall after a breach has occurred.

Logic would rule that healthcare providers would prioritise sharing medical information with patients and between themselves in order to expedite treatment. This would also facilitate the need General Practitioners have to access patient files wherever they are. Things are not that simple however. Medical data is among the most regulated out there, and for good reason. In the wrong hands, records can be misused to acquire equipment and medicine at the expense of patients, who risk suffering full fallout of identity theft.

Platform and location agnostic

This makes security a top priority for providers, who would rather err on the side of caution. As a consequence easy access to data, even by those who are fully entitled to it, is not a given. The need for that access, however, is very present. Like other professionals, doctors are more mobile than they were in the past. It is expected from them to perform the same duties while at the same time being unrestrained by their location, whether it is at their General Practitioner Centre, their own homes or while on house calls. And since GP practices have different IT environments when it comes to platforms, size and support, it is important that any solution for centralised data stores is platform independent and does not require additional installs.

Single Factor Authentication Won’t Cut It

One very important element of such a solution is the identification and authentication process. A simple username and password or PIN will not suffice, as prominent data beaches in recent years has made painfully clear.

But it has been known for longer that single-factor authentication simply is not secure enough. Not only does it allow for full access by simply knowing a passphrase or PIN, the case is also that most users are not used to define strong passwords, making it easier to deduce by others.

Healthcare providers are therefore increasingly using solutions that require periodic identity verification. Two-factor authentication, where an additional code is sent to a token after submitting a password or PIN number, goes a long way as physical access to a certain device is needed. It also meets the requirement of healthcare providers to be mobile, as they can still access the database from any location, as long as they bring their token with them. Such security renders the simple theft of ID and passwords or PIN numbers useless for criminals, who are usually located in another country and have no means to steal a specific token as well.

Strict but Easy to Use

Looking overseas for examples, one such solution is offered by specialist Dutch IT service provider Promedico ICT Ltd. It uses a multi-factor identification and authorisation system by VASCO and included it in it Promedico ASP solution. “Our security policy regarding Promedico ASP is very strict,” says Robert Verhagen, Operations Manager at Promedico. “It consists out of three steps: authentication, non-repudiation and confidentiality. In order to comply with all three steps, Promedico has built a close administrative procedure.”

In order to register, GPs need to present a valid medical ID to receive a DIGIPASS 260 authentication device. In order to access the central database, the doctor needs to enter a PIN into the DIGIPASS authentication device, after which a code is shown. During the session, the ID process is verified constantly, while the connection is encrypted to thwart any eavesdroppers. The result is that the security has multiple layers: username and password for the application, physically owning the right DIGIPASS device, and knowing the PIN for the DIGIPASS. That way, Promedico has achieved to cater to all demands of their customers: easy and quick but airtight access to the medical database, independent of the GP’s location. The healthcare providers are also fully compliant with the strict rules and regulations set by national governments.

Six Healthcare Applications that Need Authentication

The need for strong authentication reaches much further than the exchange of information between GPs and other providers though. The Information Security Media Group and VASCO have identified six areas in healthcare IT for which strong authentication practices are vital. Applications for Electronic Health Records (EHR), the category in which the Promedico example falls, is just one of those. A second category is applications for e-prescriptions, which are used to administer and track prescriptions in a paperless environment. Relatively simple employee portal applications also need strong authentication as they can give indirect access to medical files as well. The fourth type are patient portal applications, which serve as a way to communicate with patients and offer them a way to access their own files. It is, of course, of utmost importance that this access is restricted to just their own files.

The fifth type of application that needs strong authentication are medical mobile apps, of which more and more are appearing at hospitals and GP Centres. And finally, there is the network infrastructure of hospitals themselves.

When asked off the bat, professionals will always acknowledge the need for strong authentication. This realisation is even stronger among medical professionals, who need to comply with strict regulations. However, because of the perception that strong authentication applications place a burden on usability and cause a general hassle, even healthcare professionals will either access and share data in an unsecure way, or not access and share it at all. It is less known that modern applications offer a balance between both needs, ensuring that doctors can get on with their work while patients get prompt treatment without facing bureaucratic speed bumps.





An ambulance worker from Berwick and a day centre receptionist from Belfast are the first ever winners of the Our Health Heroes awards, set up to celebrate the work of the thousands of support staff who keep the NHS running behind the scenes.

Iain Scott and Elizabeth Cameron received their awards today (Tuesday) at a special ceremony hosted by Skills for Health, the National Skills Academy for Health and UNISON.

Iain Scott from Berwick Ambulance Station won the national award for Clinical Support Worker of the Year, and Elizabeth Cameron from Fortwilliam Day Centre took home the top honour in the Operational Services Support Worker of the Year category.

The Our Health Heroes awards are the culmination of a campaign by the three organisations to celebrate the contribution made by the 800,000 individuals who make up the healthcare support workforce across the UK. From hospital porters to emergency care assistants, cleaners, caterers and administrative staff, their role in patient care is crucial, but often goes unnoticed.

More than 500 nominations were whittled down to a total of 24 regional winners, two from each of UNISON’s 12 regions. A public vote then decided the national winners.

A special honorary award was also presented in memory of Grant Callachan, a physiotherapy support worker at Arbroath Infirmary in Scotland, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Grant’s colleagues submitted a moving nomination highlighting the special difference he had made to his team, and how his example continues to inspire them. The award judges unanimously decided that his compassion and enthusiasm role should be recognised, and his honorary award was accepted by his wife, Michelle.

Iain Scott was nominated by his colleagues for always putting them and his patients first. From administration to stock control and the station social fund, Iain spends all his spare time on station doing as much as he can for colleagues.

Iain also goes the extra mile for patients, calling in to see them in his spare time, helping with their shopping if they are housebound, and checking on their pets. He makes sure the most vulnerable patients are comfortable and at ease, encouraging those who are reluctant to travel to hospital, and bringing in heaters to make sure vehicles are warm in the winter.

Iain said: “I’m honoured to have won the national award, I never thought it was going to be me. I’m really pleased to have won but I think everyone here today would have deserved it just as much as me; so my heart goes out to each and every one of them as well.”

Elizabeth Cameron has been the welcoming face of the Fortwilliam Day Centre since it opened 30 years ago and constantly goes over and above what is expected of her daily role. She is hardworking, motivated and reliable, but it is her compassion and positivity, even during challenging times, that have really set her apart.

Elizabeth builds strong relationships with the people with learning disabilities who use the centre, many of whom view her as a member of their extended family. She can often be found reading storybooks and chatting with them during her lunch breaks, and when they are having a bad day, she talks through their problems with them. She regularly organises a host of events, including the annual Christmas dinner, which many view as the highlight of their year.

Elizabeth said: “I’m so shocked that I’ve won. When I was told I’d even been nominated I thought it was a joke and that there must be someone out there that deserves it more than me. It’s an honour and I do really love my job; I wouldn’t have been doing it for so long if I didn’t!”

John Rogers, chief executive, Skills for Health, said: “The dedicated individuals in our healthcare support workforce truly are the sector’s unsung heroes. They keep the NHS running from behind the scenes, and their hard work and commitment is integral to making sure patients receive the very best care possible. We are very proud at Skills for Health to be a leading voice in celebrating their contribution and value to the sector.

“We would like to extend our huge congratulations to Iain and Elizabeth, and to each of our 24 regional winners. All of them should be extremely proud of their achievements, and we hope to see this spirit of celebration continue across the sector.”

Candace Miller, director, National Skills Academy for Health, said: “The National Skills Academy for Health is dedicated to ensuring healthcare support staff can access the training they need to be effective at the job they love. We were overwhelmed by the fantastic response to this campaign that we created to give the invaluable individuals in our healthcare support workforce the recognition they deserve.

“Iain and Elizabeth are both truly deserving of winning the Our Health Heroes Award 2016, and hearing of their compassion and commitment to their colleagues and patients is truly inspiring.”

Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said: “Without support staff like porters, cleaners and administrative staff, the NHS would very quickly grind to a halt. Despite the huge squeeze in resources, this dedicated band of employees works tirelessly, under often incredible pressures, making sure equipment and people are in the right places, that wards are clean, and patients’ medical records are kept up to date.

“But while the public, quite rightly, often sings the praises of the nurses, midwives and doctors in the NHS, the many support staff, whose work is largely invisible, tend to be ignored. That’s why these awards are so important.”

As well as the national awards, Iain and Elizabeth have each also won training packages worth up to £2,500 for their organisation, provided by Skills for Health and the Skills Platform, along with a £250 voucher to use towards a mini-break holiday, generously donated by

How Vaping Can Help You Stop Smoking And Live a Healthier Life

There is no doubt about it – smoking cigarettes is detrimental to your health. But quitting smoking altogether is a hard feat to accomplish, and one that usually isn’t achieved overnight. Many find themselves fervently convinced by their own desire to quit smoking, only to give up their quest the next day.

Luckily for smokers across the globe, alternatives to cigarettes have never been this effective. Spurred on by damning statistics1 such as cigarettes claiming 80,000 lives a year within England alone, a sizable demand has broken off from the ranks of the tobacco adherents. Trusting rather in what can be considered the ‘second generation of smoking devices’, classic cigars and cigarettes could, at last, be entering their twilight.

According to Government sanctioned research2, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than their traditional predecessors. How this is achieved, is by heating an e-liquid (propylene glycol) to create a harmless vapour that is thus inhaled. In comparison, regular cigarettes host a number of toxic chemicals such as acetone, ammonia, lead and styrene, a well-known carcinogen. E-cigarettes, in contrast, only make use of propylene glycol, which is known for being used in asthma inhalers and secondly vegetable glycerol, trusted in the production of food and cosmetics.

Furthermore, e-cigarettes do not produce the same toxic, foul-smelling smoke that cigarettes do, while also not being positively infused with nicotine. The e-cigarette vapour does not embed itself into furniture and does not assail the senses of non-smokers nearby, for which cigarettes are infamous for doing so. Rather, it has been proved3 that there is no noticeable health threat to those nearby, and smokers need no longer be ostracised as social pariahs by those who do not partake.

Physical Impact

For as long as smoking has been around, there has been the ongoing debate of whether cigarettes actually taste nice. Whilst such a judgement remains subjective to the individual, what is for sure is the effects4 on the senses. Cigarettes are known to dull your senses, and many smokers complain of their smell and taste being dampened. Therefore do the cigarettes really taste bad or is simply their impact on the body that you feel?

Aside from the flavour, smoking also affects vascularisation, as cigarettes increase your blood pressure and dehydrate you. This, in turn, will negatively impact your blood vessels. Subsequently, it has been proven5 that nearly every organ in the body suffers as these vessels find it more and more difficult to get where they need to be. Thankfully, such damage can be reversed over time, if preventative measures are taken.

Returning to taste, though, e-cigarettes come with a very wide variety of e-liquids, ranging from surprising flavours such as yoghurt to homey ones like pastry. While cigarettes all too often taste like acid-coated wood, e-cigarettes can taste like whatever you wish. For those who miss the taste of tobacco, though, fear not – there’s countless tobacco flavours out there for your taste bud’s pleasure.


At the heart of the success of big tobacco firms, nicotine stands as one of the most lethal chemicals on the planet. Prized for its demonstrable ability6 to alter chemicals in the brain, dropping nicotine ‘cold turkey’ is far from easy.

In contrast with e-cigarettes, you can choose exactly how much nicotine you want to vape and can lessen your intake over time.


A huge amount of smokers have found themselves entrapped by nicotine addiction from a simple, casual, social puff of a cigarette. People not only smoke because of addiction but also to pass the time or to engage in the social aspect of collectively smoking with your friends.

Many smokers are used to smoking a cigarette right as they wake up, or after a good meal; during times of stress or with a cup of coffee. Being a smoker is not just being physically addicted to nicotine, but also being psychologically addicted. Smoking cigarettes becomes a habit, and everyone knows habits are hard to kick.

Overall, the main factor that spurs on vapers, is that by transitioning to e-cigs, they are taking back control over the nicotine itself. Now, users have an unprecedented influence over what they put into their body, all whilst satisfying their mental cravings for an intake. Socially, smokers can now quite literally come in from the cold, as never before has smoking been this socially acceptable amongst non-participants. With all the existing benefits of cigarettes minus the vast majority of negatives, it looks like vaping is the breeze on which orthodox smoking is set to drift away.