Q&A With Gus Malezis, Imprivata

In 2019, digital identity company Imprivata announced a new partnership with Microsoft. The first phase of the collaboration, Healthcare Seamless SSO, was announced in April 2019, with subsequent releases over the course of the year. We talked to Imprivata President and CEO Gus Malezis when the first phase rolled out, and then caught up with him early this year. In addition to the Microsoft collaboration, we also took the opportunity to talk about some of the general challenges the healthcare industry is facing and what the future holds.

Let’s start by talking about the collaboration with Microsoft and the services it’s helped create: What is it and how did it come about?

Healthcare providers were having an incredibly tough time accessing all the technology that was put in front of them to ostensibly service them and enable them to deliver better service to their patients. When you’re a doctor or a nurse, before you can service a patient, you need to access systems to get some context and understand what’s going on and learn what the system can tell you about that patient and their situation. All of that technology has complicated their lives immensely by putting a lot of ID and name and password logins in front of them. It has resulted in productivity losses and a lot of frustration.

Over the years, Imprivata has delivered technology that’s pretty iconic across the marketplace — technology that allows healthcare professionals to use their badges to tap the technology device and log in easily. It’s simple and instantaneous. It’s magical. Doctors and nurses love it.

As we continued to monitor the professional aspects of the job environment of our doctors and nurses, we discovered that as many of the applications are becoming cloud-based, it added more complexity. To access those cloud-based applications, they have to go back in and log in a second time. Healthcare Seamless SSO allows enterprise single-sign-on into  all shared clinical workstations and mobile devices, extending the tap-in and tap-out capabilities of Imprivata OneSign, allowing badge tap access into Office 365 and any application connected to Microsoft Azure Active Directory, including the extensive catalog of cloud-based applications in Microsoft Azure Marketplace.

What launches and phases have followed that initial release, and how is it being received? 

Just before the start of this year, we introduced Imprivata OneSign 7.0 with Imprivata Web SSO. This innovation adds SAML (security assertion markup language) capability, enabling fast, secure access to all the non-Microsoft applications that don’t use Azure. So, in the past year, we’ve delivered seamless technology that enables — authenticates – virtually 100% of the cloud application space.

This is hugely important. Some people think, “what cloud applications do providers really use?” The answer: many more than you might think. On any given day, health system employees use a dozen or more different cloud applications. The less-used apps – payroll, accounting systems, and LinkedIn – are typically the ones that pose challenges. Why? Because people can’t remember the various IDs and passwords. Now, with OneSign 7.0, they don’t have to worry about it. This has been very well received.

It seems there’s a security element to this as well – and the healthcare industry seems to be notoriously vulnerable to cyberattacks. Why is that, and what can healthcare organizations do to make themselves less vulnerable?

Healthcare is in the midst of a digital transformation, creating information security, compliance, and workflow challenges. The engagement of an increasingly decentralized and fluid workforce – along with anytime, anyplace healthcare and the proliferation of cloud-based applications, databases, and mobile devices – have begun to erode the once well-defined network perimeter, leaving healthcare organizations much more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

One solution lies in Imprivata’s continuous authentication technology. This technology uses your smartphone to ensure digital identity with dual-factor authentication that is exercised continuously yet silently – meaning it does not disrupt the user. Providers use a badge tap to automatically log into a device, and our technology then looks for your smartphone and encrypted token. So, you have 1) the badge card, 2) a password or PIN, and 3) the token on your smartphone. That gives us a high degree of confidence that the person behind the keyboard is indeed who they claim to be. And we keep pulling that information throughout the user session. Say a provider steps away to get a cup of coffee. The system will automatically lock. When the provider steps back into the room, the system recognizes that and automatically unlocks. It’s completely invisible, entirely effective, and makes complete sense — especially because it saves healthcare employees so much time. They no longer must deal with the challenge of typing their password 15 times a day, which is a huge issue contributing to physician burnout and related challenges.

As we’re wrapping up the first quarter of 2020, what are you most excited about?

I’m most excited to take Imprivata into the future of digital identity. That’s really the next stage for our company. Everything we do today is wrapped around a component of digital identity: from identity governance to patient identity. And now it’s about applying these identities anywhere/anytime/anyplace. Doctors and nurses are increasingly mobile and want their identity to follow them around. The challenge is we don’t have one thing — like a driver’s license or ATM card — that could be considered a valid digital identity for use in healthcare. Every patient has a few non-trusted digital identities like name, address, email, etc. What if every patient entered the hospital with a trusted and verified digital identity? That would be valuable to both the patient and the healthcare organization. A verified patient identity is similar to how Imprivata creates a trusted physician identity for cloud applications and EPCS today, so watch for it in the future. It’s an exciting area that continues to evolve.

If your customers were to describe your company in three words, what would they be?

Our customers would describe our people and our company as customer-focused. Our culture is that of commitment to customers, innovation and excellence. That’s more than three words, of course. But my point is, we have a strong work ethic and a deep respect for people. We strive to build trust with each other, and with our customers, and always to gravitate toward the bigger picture — trying to solve problems and deliver solutions in ways the customer wants. We’re nimble. That’s yet another word (the fifth!) you might use to describe Imprivata.

What would you consider your greatest achievement?

Establishing Imprivata as a self-sustaining, profitable company. When I started at Imprivata, the company was successful in some areas, but still hadn’t turned the corner on profitability. I made a promise to the team that we would become a self-sustaining business, one our customers could rely on, without compromising customer success. I’m proud to say that we did so within the first year. That milestone was very important. I had previously worked at 3Com, which – within my first year-and-a-half to two years at the company – had a near-death experience. This was in the early 90s, and the company was losing a lot of money. My office went from 25 employees down to three, and then eventually to two. That lesson taught me to be very diligent, very thoughtful, with the decisions I make for our people and our customers. This is an organization full of people who have families to support, so it is extremely important that I apply the lessons I learned early in my career about sustainability to Imprivata.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before: “Treat others like you’d like to be treated”. Although I actually have my own, modified version of this expression. I like to say, “Treat others in the best possible way, and treat them better tomorrow than you did today.”

I think we should be raising the bar all the time in how we interact and treat each other. You can’t accomplish anything of scale that matters if you don’t work as a team. You can’t just direct or dictate people to do things — you have to engage them, make them true partners in your journey. What is your goal? How are you trying to get there? What’s the value in getting there? If you can’t answer that, then you don’t have alignment. At Imprivata, we build common goals so we can make sure our customers succeed in delivering health care better today than they did yesterday. And even better tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.

Amy Weiss

is BPO Media and Research’s editorial director. As a writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for more than 20 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, software, digital transformation, document management and cybersecurity.