Imprivata Aims to Make It Easier to Securely Access Electronic Health Records

Lexington, MA-based Imprivata is among the software companies that is benefiting from the push in the U.S. and abroad to adopt electronic health records. And the venture-backed company seems to have found its place in the healthcare field by streamlining the way clinicians securely access IT systems.

This year, the U.S. government starts paying out $17 billion in incentives—which were outlined in President Obama’s economic stimulus plan two years ago—for physicians that implement electronic health records according to certain “meaningful use” standards. While most physicians seem to think that the digitization of medical recordkeeping is good for patients, a poll showed last month that 60 percent of 500 physicians from on the doctors-only social network Sermo believed that using the records would prolong exam times. (Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth, which provides an online EHR, paid Cambridge, MA-based Sermo to conduct the poll.)

For many doctors, time is money. It might take an extra few minutes to enter login information to view a patient’s electronic record, and that’s not good. Omar Hussain, the chief executive of Imprivata, says that his company has been able to reduce login times to a few seconds. (For certain records systems, the firm provides the option of using a fingerprint scan or the touch of an ID badge swipe for people to access systems.) The key is offering speedy login times while maintaining security. There are strict regulations that guard the privacy of patient information, and hospitals are on the hook for any breaches in security. The need for quick access to health IT systems and the critical need to secure patient information has made so-called “single-sign on” technology like Imprivata’s a hot area.

Sentillion, an Andover, MA-based firm that was acquired by Microsoft last year, has software that addresses some of same access-management challenges. Imprivata has been busy trying to gain new customers in healthcare—in competition with Microsoft/Sentillion—and adding features to its core technology to set itself apart from its rivals. The firm, which also serves clients in multiple sectors (Hussain mentions clothier Neiman Marcus and the Vatican as customers), now gets about 60-65 percent of its business from healthcare, according to Hussain.

Imprivata set up a healthcare division in early 2010 and that segment of its business helped the firm drive 30 percent growth in revenue last year, Hussain says. (The company is private and he declined to release actual sales numbers.) This growth is likely music to the ears of the firm’s investors, which include General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge, MA, Highland Capital Partners in Lexington, Waltham, MA-based Polaris Venture Partners, and SAP Ventures. Hussain says that the company has raised a total of $50 million from investors.

The company says that its technology is now used at 700 hospitals and in thousands of smaller clinical centers. Some of its big customers include Catholic Health Partners, Johns Hopkins University Medical System, and multiple clinical centers within the English National Health Service. Still, charting the company’s growth is tough without actual revenue figures.

What is clear is that Imprivata seems to have carved out its own identity in the somewhat crowded field of software outfits that sell single-sign on technology to manage secure access of healthcare systems. In addition to Sentillion, firms competing in this market include smaller independent companies like HealthCast in Boise, ID, and the tech giant Oracle, to name a few. (Oracle agreed to buy single-sign on firm Passlogix in October 2010, boosting its presence in this market.)

Without picking apart the nuances among the vendors’ products, I was interested in Imprivata’s product released last year that uses facial recognition technology and automatically ends sessions on a computer when someone walks away. “In healthcare, a clinician can be pulled away instantly and won’t have time do a proactive action to shut the system down or lock it,” Hussain says. Imprivata’s technology has a small camera that detects when a doctor has moved a certain distance from her computer and locks others from viewing her files.

Hussain has been with Imprivata since its early days in 2002, when he joined the company as a senior vice president. He joined the company after Dave Barrett, a general partner at Polaris, introduced him to Imprivata’s founder and chief technology officer, David Ting. The company initially released its flagship “OneSign” product in 2004 and Hussain became the firm’s CEO the following year. Prior to joining Imprivata, he was the founder and chief executive of an e-commerce software firm called Anchorsilk, which closed after its market largely vanished with the dot-com collapse in 2001.

Imprivata, founded in 2002, has 140 employees—relatively small compared with competitors such as Microsoft and Oracle, both of which have thousands of employees and deep pockets for spending on sales as well as research and development. To help it compete as a smaller independent firm, Imprivata has formed alliances to sell its software for use with the products of large electronic medical records providers such as Cerner, Eclipsys, and McKesson, according to Hussain.

He says that while those tech giants have thousands of employees, his company has an advantage in focus. Imprivata is all about ensuring fast and secured access to data, which it believes will be the key to getting doctors to actually use the electronic records that the President and so many others want to see them use.

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