Friday, March 13, 2009 at 11:23AM
With biometric technologies rapidly improving and prices dropping, more and more industries and sectors are looking to improve security and data management with these capabilities. Amusement parks, graduate school tests and even community colleges are already taking the plunge, and healthcare centers nationwide are next with smart cards, fingerprint, vascular and iris biometrics making appearances in select hospitals.
Healthcare IT consultant Mike Wisz points out in this article that healthcare centers are hotbeds for misidentification, privacy breaches, transcription errors and insurance fraud -- it was only a matter of time before these technologies made their way into ORs and hospital wings to improve the accuracy and integrity of medical care. In a service industry with drastic consequences, utilizing biometrics to automate authentication procedures has long been in the works. However, kinks still need to be worked out to ensure the technology's long-term viability in the industry.
Implementing fingerprinting in hospitals, in particular, poses some interesting challenges. The typical procedure involves users manually entering a user ID, then pressing their exposed index finger over the reading device. Read: prints require skin contact with the device, and therefore are susceptible to germs and bacteria spreading. In a hospital? I don't think so. A few more hurdles for that one...
Vascular and iris biometrics, on the other hand, are up and coming and do not require skin contact; however, they do come with much larger pricetags and untested patient waters.
Urban Health Plan in Bronx, N.Y. is one of the first health centers in the country to utilize iris identification technology to perform instantaneous iris pattern scans in order to effectively authenticate individuals. Vascular biometrics, on the other hand, circumvent contact issues between readers and people by scanning underneath the skin via passive infrared technology to illuminate veins and record images associated uniquely to individuals. Both remain largely unfamiliar to patients, and in such a serious environment as a hospital offers, that obstacle will be hard to bypass.
However, the payoffs are pretty significant -- like in other industries such as retail, we can predict that the investment in upgraded biometrics equipment for hospitals will be most quickly apparent in reduced insurance and fraud cases, while also continuing to address ongoing issues surrounding the misidentification of patients. Seems simple enough, but mistakes still do happen.
I don't know about you, but if given the option, I'd rather have my irises scanned or fingerprints taken that having to stare down all those mountains of paperwork. But even better than both might be good old facial recognition. No touching, no staring, and no scanning. Hospitals have enough of that already.