The digitalisation of health services is making slow progress. This presents major challenges to private as well as statutory health insurance companies. This is despite the fact that health insurance funds have offered the electronic health record (EHR) since 2021. However, its uptake so far has been minimal. Now, the Federal Minister of Health wants to speed up the pace of digitalisation. From 1 January 2024 onward, health insurance funds should provide policyholders with secure digital access to their data and electronic health records (EHR). When it comes to accelerating the digitalisation process in healthcare and guaranteeing a seamless customer journey and privacy for policyholders, the sectoral identity provider (IdP) has an important role. To discover how this differs from an IdP and the key issues facing health insurance funds and health insurance companies in relation to digitalisation, read our latest blog post below.
The sectoral IdP – a brief explanation
In general, the identity provider is one of the essential components of modern IT systems because it means that users only have to authenticate themselves once and can then access multiple applications and services. IdPs are central authentication points that enable logins across multiple security levels. This ensures a high degree of privacy for users.
The sectoral IdP is a subcategory tailored to a specific sector or industry and meets user identity management and access control requirements. Therefore, the sectoral IdP offers a specialised solution for specific organisations, aligned with the industry's best practices.
This is particularly important in the healthcare sector due to the unique sensitivities involved in managing user identities and access rights. After all, patient data must be protected while other regulations and specifications are to be complied with accordingly.
One example of a specialised and, therefore, industry-specific IdP solution for healthcare is the ‘SMART on FHIR' standard (Substitutable Medical Applications, Reusable Technologies on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). This open standard enables developers in health services to access and use patient data and clinical information collectively. Based on OAuth2 and OpenID Connect, the standard adds another security level to the FHIR API to enable integration with EHR systems.
Moreover, using sector-specific IdP in a healthcare setting makes it easier to comply with privacy regulations such as the GDPR.
How the sectoral IdP works
When it comes to protecting and managing the identity of users, a combined identity and access management system that covers different protocols and technologies forms the basis of the sectoral IdP. This allows the provider to authenticate users, verify their identity and control access rights to resources and applications.
Sectoral IdPs employ a directory of user identities and access permissions. These are usually based on different data sources such as authentication providers, access control systems, EHRs and other applications used by health services. In this context, common standards and protocols such as SAML, OAuth and OpenID Connect are used to guarantee interoperability with other systems.
By working with a sectoral PID, different healthcare institutions and organisations can ensure that the identity of a user within the sector is efficiently and securely administered. This supports the treatment possibilities and cooperation between the various healthcare organisations and reduces the administrative burden on individual participants.
Benefits to health insurance funds and health insurance companies
Healthcare digitalisation is also becoming important for health insurance funds and companies. They must optimise their digital offerings to protect policyholders' data and meet their needs. The IdP can provide a helping hand and offers a range of benefits:
- Efficient and easy identity management
Health insurance funds and health insurance companies can streamline the identity management of their users with a sectoral IdP tailored to the regulations and requirements of healthcare. Instead of setting up an expensive identity management system, they can use sectoral IdP.
- Improved privacy and strong data protection
We recommend using a sectoral IdP to improve privacy and data protection because the policyholders' data is centrally managed by a provider and can only be viewed by authorised persons.
- Seamless interoperability
Using a central IdP introduces uniform standards and protocols for exchanging data between different systems. This dramatically simplifies the process of exchanging patient data.
- Boosting efficiency within an organisation
The use of electronic health records also helps streamline internal processes and workflows within health funds and health insurance companies. For example, the amount of manual work is reduced because policyholders are identified and authenticated automatically.
- Smooth customer journeys
A sectoral IdP can help improve user-friendliness for policyholders. The registration and use of electronic health records can be made simpler and less complicated, which can encourage greater acceptance among policyholders. Particularly among younger age groups, this can be a key factor influencing which health insurance fund they choose.
Looking to the future, it will become increasingly important for health funds and health insurance companies to digitalise their offerings. We recommend using architectures and concepts based on established security technologies to allow different systems to interact and enable intelligent data exchange without impeding identity access management.