Biometrics Bring Fingerprint ID to Hospitals

A very early adopter, one health care system is integrating Ultra-Scan's fingerprint identification technology to ease its patient care, IT, administrative and compliance burdens.

Before a few years ago, biometrics company Ultra-Scan had relatively little interest in the health care sector. But as health information technology started to become a national political imperative, the company began realizing that its fingerprint-scanning technology could help with the complex issue of positive patient identification.

The first rollout of its fingerprint technology in a health care environment was two years ago at the Catholic Health System in Buffalo, N.Y.

The first implementation of fingerprint identification was a standalone system in a single methadone clinic. It was there that the hospital system had an opportunity to work out some of the initial issues with the system and to watch the technology mature, according to Catholic Health System Vice President of IT Jeff Baughan.

Within the last year, Catholic Health System went on to implement the Ultra-Scan fingerprint technology in the admissions process for two out of the four hospitals in its system. Now, when a patient enters the hospital admissions area, staff ask if he or she has been registered via the "Personal Touch System."

Fingerprint registration is entirely voluntary, but with a concerted educational effort these hospitals have been able to achieve about an 85 percent compliance rate upon admission.

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This portion of the process involves taking fingerprints from two or three fingers on the left and right hands; scanning two or three pieces of identification, including a drivers license; taking a photo; scanning health insurance information; and getting an electronic version of the patients signature.

All this is accomplished through an Ultra-Scan unit that incorporates a fingerprint unit, scanner, Web camera and signature block. When a patient already in the system returns, admissions staff identify him or her using a fingerprint and date of birth.

Baughan says this will "typically come back with one or two finds; the staff member will then do a visual of the name and photo and confirm the patients identity."

This provides much more consistency in patient identification than usually exists.

"If you look at how patient identification occurs today, its usually based on demographics, name and address," observes Ultra-Scan Corp. Vice President Bryan Schutjer. "These are subject to change, all of these are dynamic. Biometrics are static by comparison."

The data gleaned in the fingerprint identification process sits on top of multiple registration systems already in use at the hospitals, thus providing a unique, consistent identifier thats layered on top of existing systems, notes Baughan. This, in addition to assuring positive patient identification, is one of the main benefits of the product.

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