A growing number of UK hospitals are now using smart card technology to control physical access to their buildings and logical access to the IT systems that house confidential patient data. Contactless smart cards are helping to boost physical security in hospitals by enabling differing levels of building access to certain staff, while medical professionals can also use their smart card to access sensitive patient data on a network.

This can also save on time wasted in remembering and entering usernames and passwords, freeing up more time for patient care. And healthcare professionals can demonstrate that they are storing and managing patient details in a safe and secure way to comply with the Data Protection Act.

Infection control is another new application for contactless smart cards. A doctor on her morning ward round could see 20 patients on five different wards, accessing different computer systems as she goes. It’s easy to see how infection can be spread, but if your pass card never touches the reader, it can’t spread germs.

So why aren’t all hospitals using this technology? The cost of upgrading to contactless smart cards can be a barrier to deployment for some hospitals, where getting another 30 patient beds can feature higher in management’s priorities than upgrading physical and logical access systems. On the other hand, is it really possible to put a price on security in a maternity ward or effective infection control?

When you weigh up the costs of contactless smart card technology against the long-term benefits, it can offer outstanding value to the healthcare sector, saving time and money, protecting patients and staff and safeguarding their personal data. Portable and secure, contactless smart cards are fast becoming a valuable tool for safeguarding physical security and guaranteeing the privacy of sensitive electronic information.