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ONC: Two-Factor Authentication for PHI Access Increasing in Hospitals

December 3, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

As of 2014, nearly half of hospitals reported their IT department supports an infrastructure for two-factor authentication to verify that a person seeking access to electronic protected health information (ePHI) is approved, according to a recent data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

This represents a 53 percent increase since 2010, ONC found. The agency, which used American Hospital Association (AHA) data, said it is the first such report on national and state trends in two-factor authentication capability among non-federal acute care hospitals in the U.S. from 2010 to 2014.

Two-factor authentication is technology that requires users to provide at least one additional form of identification beyond user name and password to gain electronic access to ePHI, thus satisfying a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirement. Examples include requiring users to answer security questions or enter a randomly generated number sent to their personal mobile device. Since 2010, non-federal acute care hospitals increased their capability for two-factor authentication by an average rate of 11 percent every year.

ONC further found that fewer critical access (35 percent) and small rural (40 percent) hospitals report having the two-factor authentication capability. Half (51 percent) of small urban hospitals have the capability for two-factor authentication, while about six in 10 medium and large hospitals have the capability for two-factor authentication, the report found.

Narrowed down further by state, ONC found that in 2014, 20 states had over half of their hospitals with the capability for two-factor authentication. States ranged from 19 percent-93 percent of hospitals with the capability. The states with the highest percentage of hospitals with the capability were Ohio (93 percent), Vermont (83 percent), and Delaware (81 percent). The states with the lowest percentage of hospitals with the capability were Montana (19 percent), North Dakota (23 percent), and Maine (26 percent).


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