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Enhancing User Experience, Security, and Compliance with Single Sign-on

Every day, clinical research organizations work to deliver a seamless user experience for their staff, while also providing robust security measurements to protect their data and stay compliant. Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication method designed to centralize and simplify system access for all types of organizations, including healthcare organizations and clinical research sites.

As technology evolves and the industry streamlines research workflows, implementing SSO can lead to significant improvements in both user experience and security.

User Experience

Adopting SSO can greatly enhance the overall user experience as staff log into their many platforms during a typical day. Users can log in via SSO once using their credentials, with no need to re-authenticate to access other internal applications leveraging SSO.

With this approach, there is no need to remember or store multiple passwords. SSO can help reduce the time spent on password resets and user support related to login issues. If staff only have one password to remember, they are more likely to actually remember it, rather than it getting lost in the shuffle.

Having a singular password could also potentially affect trial timelines. Oftentimes, research staff are faced with logging into multiple systems, and with that comes remembering multiple passwords. This leaves a lot of room for error and forgetting which password correlates with which platform – which could lead to a user getting locked out of an important platform. When a user gets locked out of a system, IT or a system administrator typically need to assist to unlock them. Since staff would temporarily be unable to properly access the necessary systems, it could lead to wasted time and trial delays.

SSO can enable you to have access to multiple clinical and operational systems, such as:

  • Electronic medical record (EMR)
  • Electronic data capture (EDC)
  • Clinical trial management system (CTMS)
  • eRegulatory management systems
  • Financial systems such as a general ledger
  • Biobanking platforms
  • eConsent systems

Additionally, SSO can improve collaboration amongst team members. SSO-enabled collaborative platforms allow multiple staff members to update data and documents at the same time, while allowing the site to maintain a level of security and control access to those docs. By enabling collaboration in a shared document, staff can avoid the need to manage multiple versions of a document, saving time and potentially increasing compliance.

Security

Security is always a primary concern for healthcare organizations, as the industry consistently faces threats to patient information and internal data.

By implementing SSO and centralizing access to internal systems, organizations can significantly reduce their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. Utilizing a singular login for all of your applications provides much more control for system administrators. In addition, organizations can provide users with a simple, consistent login process, reducing the risk of staff falling victim to phishing or other cyber-attacks. The fewer logins to manage, the less you will have to worry about staff getting fooled into logging into an unfamiliar platform.

In addition to simplifying the user’s login experience, SSO can improve security by leveraging a centralized user database such as Microsoft’s Active Directory.

With an active directory or a similar user database, an organization could have control over each individual user’s access. Not only does this help as people come and go from an organization, but it’s beneficial when working with consultants, monitors, or other external stakeholders, which is common in clinical research. Managing these users via a centralized database connected to SSO allows them to access only the required systems, and gives your IT staff control over both the access level and time window for each user. As soon as they have completed the required tasks, your team can remove access. With SSO’s centralized user management, there’s no need to worry about taking them out of one system but forgetting to take them out of another.

Some technology solutions – such as Advarra’s Longboat technology – take this one step further. In these cases, a platform can allow an outside user to authenticate with their own organization’s credentials, adding an extra layer of security and further simplifying the user experience. When this capability is enabled, controls are also put in place at the site level, ensuring the site ultimately maintains control of access to their systems.

SSO also has the ability to enhance user accountability and compliance within an organization. By providing a clear trail of user activities, it helps keep everyone accountable for what they are doing in each system and allows the organization to more easily adhere to regulations such as 21 CFR Part 11.

SSO can also benefit team members accessing systems via mobile devices. Most large organizations have a simplified mobile experience to log in, authenticate, and access various platforms needed to conduct research. Having SSO available via cellular device enables easy and secure access to research systems. Not only is this more convenient for research staff, but it also promotes a more flexible and mobile-friendly work environment.

Looking Ahead

As both clinical research and the threat of cyber-attacks continue to evolve, there will only be a greater need for advanced user experiences and security measurements. SSO will continue to be critical for efficiently managing sensitive information – making it integral to advance research across the industry.

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