Rx For Remote Access - InformationWeek

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11/23/2005
10:30 AM
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Rx For Remote Access

Device cuts costs and increases productivity while giving executives at pharmacy-services company secure access to business data.

Pharmacy-services company BioScrip Inc. couldn't have asked for a better cure for its remote-access ills. Its recently deployed ID-based appliance gives mobile users and business partners secure remote access to the company's network and has generated a return on investment of more than three times the device's initial cost.

BioScrip sells pharmaceuticals to doctors, as well as to patients with complex medical conditions. The company's executives travel the globe to medical conferences to stay abreast of the latest developments in treatments. They used to carry laptops filled with information about BioScrip's drugs and other sensitive data, which posed a security risk. Now, with the Caymas Systems Inc. 525 Identity-Driven Access Gateway in place, they can access that data from the corporate network as needed.

"We have customers with AIDS, hemophilia, and transplants ... people who don't want their information [left vulnerable] out there," says Steve Goblirsch, BioScrip's networking group manager. "The company has always been focused on keeping information private," even before the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandated data security and privacy standards be met.

BioScrip's remote-access project, which cost the company a little less than $30,000, has yielded a $90,200 ROI for the health-care company in the first year of deployment. Previously, the company's mobile users relied on VPN sessions to access E-mail and other data. But setup was time-consuming, and the VPN didn't offer the same level of identity-based security as the remote-access Caymas appliance.

Plus, access wasn't always possible in far-flung locations such as Africa and Asia. And BioScrip's business partners--insurers, for instance--couldn't directly access the company's network for data sharing.

BioScrip was formed in March out of the merger of specialty pharmacy-services companies Chronimed Inc. and MIM Corp. Before the merger, Chronimed had 25 to 30 mobile or semimobile employees who needed remote access to the company network. That number has increased to 125 staffers through both the merger and growth.

Appliance Sale The remote-access initiative began before the merger. Two years ago, Chronimed commissioned Caymas Systems, a maker of secure remote-access devices, to develop a routerlike appliance for the health-care company that would sit on the edge of Chronimed's network and act as a secure Internet gateway. Caymas now sells the device as a commercial product.

That appliance cost Chronimed about $26,000, plus another $3,600 in support costs in the first year, so Goblirsch had to take a solid ROI case to upper management."It was a little more expensive than I wanted," he says. "We really had to justify why we wanted something as new as it was" and at that price, he recalls.

Goblirsch broke down the first-year ROI estimate into three parts. First, there were productivity gains from the 25 mobile users who would use the system to access their applications remotely. Based on the average of their combined salaries, Goblirsch determined that Chronimed would realize $50,000 in productivity with these users accessing Microsoft Outlook and other folders and intranet resources.

The second part of the ROI equation was IT savings. With secure remote access, BioScrip would be able to transfer data in real time to and from third parties, especially insurance companies. The remote-access deployment would save Chronimed $36,000 in network and applications engineering costs that otherwise would be incurred in building a secure, proprietary system based on EDI or a similar transmission format--the price of network transmission lines alone could run as high as $1,000 per month.

The remaining $4,200 in savings for Chronimed would come from improved communication with its Web developer in India, Goblirsch says. Through the remote-access appliance, the developer would connect directly to the BioScrip Web-site server. This way, the developer could handle file transfers, database management, and other tweaks without having Chronimed's IT group connect the server to a modem. And Goblirsch's team could more easily track changes the Web developer made to the site.

The three-tiered ROI pitch sold company executives on the project because it rang true for Chronimed and later for BioScrip. Goblirsch doesn't have hard, post-merger ROI numbers, though he says the return from the device is even higher given the greater number of remote users taking advantage of the tool.

BioScrip also carries out secured daily data transfers with insurance companies using the gateway. Goblirsch assigns these users access IDs that validate their identity and regulate their data access.

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