With sensitive patient information at stake, employees at Clarian Health Partners Inc. health care group had to remember as many as 40 passwords to access different applications. It’s no wonder Clarian’s help desk was getting lots of panic-stricken calls from doctors and other clinicians every time someone forgot a password.

The help desk received about 21,000 password reset calls per year, which accounted for 25 percent of all calls, according to David Luter, director of business innovations at Clarian, in Indianapolis.

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The health care group, which has 6,400 users and 2,800 applications, knew those calls were taking IT away from performing more mission-critical functions.

So about a year ago, Clarian turned to the v-Go Single Sign-On password system from Passlogix in New York, which allows employees to access all of their applications with one password, whether they are connected to the corporate network, traveling away from the office, roaming between computers, or working at a shared workstation.

“We wanted to try to keep track of passwords because they’re becoming more complex’’ and costly to administer, Luter said.

Password resets cost about $11 to $25 a help desk call, which doesn’t take into account lost work time, according to Forrester Research, although other research firms put the figure higher -- up to as much as $40 per call.

“We develop all sorts of intricate schemes to make our lives easier,’’ said Jonathan Penn, principal analyst of Identity and Security at Forrester, in Foster City, Calif. “That means we’re going to dumb it down” in terms of what kinds of passwords users choose, which makes them easier to crack.

Not only do single sign-on systems protect passwords from being accessed and make them harder to crack, they set more rigorous policies on when they expire, and how long and complex they will be, Penn said.