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Biometric Identification

How reading a palm can improve hospital security and efficiency.

When a new technology purports to boost hospital security while driving increased efficiency at the same time, it's as attention-getting as a palm reader foretelling the future. When biometric identification foretold of less paperwork, greater identity theft protection and even improved patient experience, facilities took notice. The Florida Hospitals in Volusia and Flagler counties are among the healthcare facilities that have recently opted to utilize a biometric identification system for all of the reasons mentioned.

These Florida hospitals began using a device that relies on infrared light to painlessly scan a patient's palm, then links the unique biometric trait to that person's electronic health record (EHR). Two more hospitals in the Florida system are implementing the system this month, with another hospital to follow in May 2017.

Unique Identifier

According to information provided by the technology's manufacturer, Imprivata, "Positive patient identification is the foundation of effective healthcare: the right care needs to be delivered to the right patient." Biometric identification creates a unique link between a patient's identity - captured in a unique vein structure - and his or her medical records.

Using veins as the one-of-a-kind identifier allows facilities to avoid more traditional forms of identification, such as Social Security numbers, reduces matching errors and improves patient experience via a somewhat seamless intake process. And because patients no longer need to provide Social Security numbers, they enjoy added protection from medical identity theft.

SEE ALSO: Health Apps: Pros & Cons

Rosa Quintana, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial patient access registrar, helps a patient use PatientSecure, a new technology that uses infrared light to scan the palm, then links the unique biometric trait to each patient's electronic health record. Photo courtesy: Florida Hospital Fish Memorial"This technology provides a safe, secure, confidential and easy way for our patients to register for care," said Rob Fulbright, CEO of the Florida Hospital East Florida Region, via a news release. "It protects privacy, improves convenience and enhances record accuracy by preventing duplications."

In addition, if a patient without identification arrives at a hospital unconscious or unable to communicate, a biometric scan can potentially be a lifesaving tool that can identify the person, open an EHR and alert medical professionals to crucial information, including medical history, insurance information, allergies and current medications.

Improving Patient Safety

Amy Bennett, director of patient access for Florida Hospital DeLand and Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, is pleased with the addition of biometric scanning. "We wanted to provide a quick, safe and secure process for identifying our patients because patient safety is our priority," Bennett told ADVANCE.

She noted that the hospitals are working to educate their communities " . about what a wonderful asset this technology is. Once a patient registers for the first time with this technology, the process is seamless in that, with a quick hand placement a medical record is identified, eliminating the need for paperwork or further identification. This means a significant reduction in time for registration and allows the patient to be seen by a physician in a shorter timeframe or have their testing done quicker, as the wait time has been reduced."

Bennett also commented that the technology is driving patient satisfaction because " . our patients are appreciative to see how important their safety and their time is to us during a medical situation."

Asked what advice she might offer other facilities considering biometric identification, Bennett said, "My advice is to work with staff to ensure they thoroughly understand the equipment and exactly how it works so that they can confidently answer any questions that may arise from patients."

Valerie Neff Newitt is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: vnewitt@advanceweb.com.

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