Too costly. Too hard to implement. Too proprietary. Three strikes and the digital certificate was out; just another IT stretcher case with a tarnished reputation in healthcare and in many other cost-sensitive sectors too.
But now it’s back – and without the problems of cost, integration and supplier lock-in. New open source service provider Diginus is targeting healthcare with a revolutionary managed digital certificate offering that’s already in use within a number of projects including a path finding out-of-hours messaging service.
The Diginus service protects patient confidentiality* in common applications including e-mail and attachments for referral and discharge summaries, the transfer of clinical and pathology information, plus Web access and e-forms. More are in testing.
Now Diginus is issuing a challenge to UK healthcare: “Bring us the certificate-based project you put on ice because of cost, and we’ll issue you with as many standards-based digital certificates as you need. Your project can be resurrected, proved and deployed in just a few weeks,” says Diginus sales and marketing director Kevin Still.
The Diginus offer is a fundamental and fixed element of a radical pricing model that starts at £5,000 and rises to a maximum of £20,000 in year three, no matter how many digital certificates are in use. It means Diginus can provide, for example, a 1,000-certificate managed service for around 60% less than similar services. Savings grow still further with larger deployments.
Says Still: “Service providers are wedded to charging up-front for every digital certificate, plus set-up costs. That makes large-scale deployments prohibitively costly, deters deployment and has led directly to vendors retrenching and in some instances withdrawing altogether. It’s not surprising that health trusts have balked when asked to pay over the odds for a service whose future is uncertain.”
“In contrast, Diginus customers can have hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of certificates — and still pay the same service charge. That means trusts can be bold and roll out even the largest of secure applications, knowing exactly what their costs will be.”
Founded by business-savvy technologists, Diginus has broken the mold by building an automated service around non-proprietary open-source software**. With no licensing royalties to pay and minimal software development overheads to recover, the company starts out on a uniquely strong financial footing.
Under the Diginus model, customer-appointed certificate managers control trusted communities through their standard desktop browser. And instead of locking customers into deploying and maintaining proprietary client-side software, Diginus integrates with existing desktops, placing certificate-based digital signature and encryption directly behind icons on application toolbars.
Among the projects already using Diginus certificates is a groundbreaking national out of hours reporting service. Brainchild of south London GP Dr. Paul Cundy, it sees electronic records of consultations given by the phone help line NHS Direct sent to doctors’ surgeries over the Internet for automatic insertion into patient electronic records. “Now a doctor not only immediately knows their patient called the help line, but also what advice was given. It’s bi-directional so GPs can give NHS Direct staff feedback,” explains Dr. Cundy. “Diginus incorporates everything that’s been learned the hard way about digital certificates within the NHS. It’s easy to integrate and easy to manage, but gives nothing away in terms of security. It means the digital certificate in healthcare has finally come of age.”
Further editorial information:
Diginus Ltd - Kevin Still + 44 1189 888839
The Sage Partnership - Kevin Fiske + 44 1189 344007
*Digital certificate security protects patient confidentiality in electronic files of any type including documents, messages and images. It works by verifying the identity of the originator, encrypting the information so that it can only be read or viewed by intended recipients and cannot be fraudulently altered, and by digitally signing it so that the originator or sender cannot later disown it.
** The core software used by Diginus, Open CA, is a development of teams in Italy and Germany with EU-wide governmental support. The four other main technology components of the service: the operating system Linux; the directory service Open LDAP; the database MySQL, and the cryptographic library Open SSL, are all widely respected, deployed and proven by international business and governments.
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