School of Computing

Modelling Access Control for Healthcare Information Systems:How to control access through policies, human processes and legislation

Ana Ferreira

PhD thesis, Computing, University of Kent, CT2 7NF, October 2010.


Abstract The introduction of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) within healthcare organizations has the main goal of integrating heterogeneous patient information that is usually scattered over different locations. However, there are some barriers that impede the effective integration of EMR within the healthcare practice (e.g., educational, time/costs, security). A focus in improving access control definition and implementation is fundamental to define proper system workflow and access. The main objectives of this research are: to involve end users in the definition of access control rules; to determine which access control rules are important to those users; to define an access control model that can model these rules; and to implement and evaluate this model. Technical, methodological and legislative reviews were conducted on access control both in general and the healthcare domain. Grounded theory was used together with mixed methods to gather users experiences and needs regarding access control. Focus groups (main qualitative method) followed by structured questionnaires (secondary quantitative method) were applied to the healthcare professionals whilst structured telephone interviews were applied to the patients. A list of access control rules together with the new Break-The-Glass (BTG) RBAC model were developed. A prototype together with a pilot case study was implemented in order to test and evaluate the new model. A research process was developed during this work that allows translating access control procedures in healthcare, from legislation to practice, in a systematic and objective way. With access controls closer to the healthcare practice, educational, time/costs and security barriers of EMR integration can be minimized. This is achieved by: reducing the time needed to learn, use and alter the system; allowing unanticipated or emergency situations to be tackled in a controlled manner (BTG) and reducing unauthorized and non-justified accesses. All this helps to achieve a faster and safer patient treatment.

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Bibtex Record

author = {Ana Ferreira},
title = {Modelling Access Control for Healthcare Information Systems:How to control access through policies, human processes and legislation},
month = {October},
year = {2010},
pages = {182-196},
keywords = {determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants},
note = {},
doi = {},
url = {},
    publication_type = {phdthesis},
    submission_id = {26368_1294927361},
    school = {Computing},
    address = {University of Kent, CT2 7NF},
    publisher = {University of Kent},

School of Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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