In 2004 Havering Council, under the watchful eye of Ian Lett, its Senior Information Governance Officer, launched an upgrade to its social care and housing systems as part of a joint project designed to provide a more efficient and cohesive service to clients.
The council's social care system had been recently introduced but there was no remote or mobile capability which meant that forms were still being raised on paper and then had to be typed in back at base.
To resolve this, the council piloted Mobile Social Care software. Seventy social workers have tablet PCs on which they input assessment information while with the client. It allows them to schedule client visits before returning to the office. Also under the Single Assessment Project they can now run through a Thirty five page electronic form with the patient in the hospital and care home and then help to get the patient discharged more speedily than before, avoiding having to go back to the office to type up all the hand-written information.
The new system is also helping care workers to access corporate policies and procedures while in the client's home, which would obviously not be possible using the existing paper format. Capturing digital signatures allows the care workers to validate the completed assessment forms on the spot and, if necessary, forms can be printed on site, allowing for real time savings.
Very early on in the project Lett stipulated that to make remote and mobile working successful it was imperative that they deploy strong encryption on every PC.
Protecting patient data was of paramount importance as we could not afford for any PC to get lost or stolen, said Lett. We knew that social and care workers would be travelling around in cars, to peoples homes and moving in and out of hospitals. We knew it would only be a matter of time before one or two would be lost or stolen. I knew I wouldnt be able to sleep at night if this information wasnt encrypted and did get lost. Therefore, encrypting the information on every device had to be mandatory. I knew that other local authorities, government bodies and other major corporations who have no choice but to use strong and reliable encryption, had bought it from Pointsec Mobile Technologies, so as the project kicked off we took no risks and bought a license for every tablet.
Lett continues Within a local authority you normally get quotes and test products from three different companies. However, I know that Pointsec was the only encryption software that sat below the operating system and would therefore encrypt absolutely everything that resides on the Tablet PC,so we opted for Pointsec immediately.
Safe and Secure
Before the social and care workers can access the encrypted data they need to enter their user name and password. If this information is entered incorrectly the machine locks and there is no way to circumvent the security.
Our social and care workers have easily coped with the encryption as it is invisible to the user and doesnt slow the machine down. In fact, one of our partially sighted users has recently commented how easy he finds the whole access process as he literally only has to follow a couple of simple log-on commands, said Lett. I know I can sleep, safe and sound at night because I dont need to fear the day a user losses a machine and it gets into the wrong hands resulting in a libel case or the information being publicly exposed in the media.
Looking to the Future
The nomadic project has been used in Havering for over a year and has been well received by the management, project and care workers. Let said: Weve had very few problems with the project or software. In fact I believe weve only taken about two calls on our helpdesk where people have come unstuck with being locked-out or forgetting their passwords and this has been resolved in about 10 minutes as the helpdesk can talk them through the access process very easily and efficiently.
For Havering the decision has already been made that any laptop or mobile device used out in the field will be encrypted as they believe this is the only way to work and ensure a flexible and safe workforce. They are in the process of building a business case to purchase more licenses for workers in the field such as building control, planning, trading standards etc.
Pointsec is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2006 which is