SmartMetric has announced a biometric key ring as an alternative method to running enterprise software on PCs to store and access electronic health records.
A developer of biometric credit and ID cards, SmartMetric launched the KeyringMedicalRecords device on Nov. 14. The storage unit allows users to maintain portability while not requiring software on a PC, according to the company.
The tool stores a Health Insurance Card activated by a fingerprint. Doctors can access the device when a patient swipes a finger over the fingerprint sensor and makes a positive fingerprint match. They can view patient data by plugging the device into a PC's USB port.
If a patient is unconscious, clinicians would use an emergency on-off button on the device to display data on the patient's medical condition, including medication, blood type and allergies.
The device works on both Mac and PCs.
In addition, the KeyringMedicalRecords USB device features processing power built in and 128GB of memory. This capacity allows doctors to store text and video angiograms, as well as radiology images such as X-rays and mammograms, according to Chaya Hendrick, president and CEO of SmartMetric.
The biometric key ring stores health data locally and goes against the trend of storing health data in the cloud.
Hendrick developed the key-ring device after her own serious bout of bacterial pneumonia brought a need to have medical records travel with her from one medical specialist to another.
Although data breaches have occurred from lost thumb, or flash, drives, like those at Henry Ford Health System in 2011, thumb drives generally lack biometric protection, Hendrick noted in an email to eWEEK.
"If the medical key ring is lost, then it is useless in the hands of a 'bad' person," Hendrick said.
A biometric key ring, or distributed database, could be less susceptible to hacking patient data than a central platform in the cloud, Hendrick suggested.
"Losing a thumb drive that is biometric-protected and is only operated after a fingerprint match is completed is far more secure than a central database," said Hendrick.
She noted that many data breaches come from central databases.
"The cloud is inherently unsafe," said Hendrick. "No one would trust having their medical records floating around on a cloud."
However, not all health industry market watchers share Hendrick's confidence in a personal hardware EHR storage device or her view of cloud-based data storage.
"It's not safer or better for general patients than cloud storage because these kinds of [hardware-based EHRs] can't be updated as easily as cloud-based records," Shahid Shah, CEO of IT consulting firm Netspective Communications and author of the Healthcare IT Guy blog, told eWEEK in an email.
Storing health data on a biometric key ring could prove effective for managing data for patients with chronic diseases and in emergencies, said Shah.
"Cloud versions of EHRs work better outside of emergencies because they are more up to date, more complete and easier to manage," said Shah.
The company also offers smart cards to store health records. The SmartMetric Medical Emergency Card allows patients to store records, images and video stills. It works with an app for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android that lets users track and update their medical information.