Kenyan health service uses fingerprint biometrics for patient identity

Kenyan health service uses fingerprint biometrics for patient identity
Kenyan healthcare provider Afya Research Africa (ARA) is using fingerprint biometrics to establish identity to provide care to people in areas without digital infrastructure while preserving their privacy, according to an announcement.

ARA, which operates 28 clinics across rural Kenya, uses Integrated Biometrics' Columbo single-print fingerprint scanner with its own STONE HMIS (Healthcare Management Information system) to enroll and confirm patient identity. The data is stored on inexpensive Linux computers, and the system transfers data over cellular networks with low bandwidth to a mesh-based infrastructure made up of local networks covering multiple villages to overcome connectivity challenges. Despite its lack of digital infrastructure in areas far from the capital of Nairobi, Kenya is launching a national biometric registration program this year to improve government planning, service delivery, and security.

Other fingerprint scanners had been used by ARA, but the organization experienced problems with image quality, a lack of compatibility with international standards, and power consumption, leading it to select the FBI-certified Columbo scanners for its program. The durability and low power draw of Columbo scanners, as well as the resistance to the affects of dust, bright sunlight, and dry or dirty fingers were significant factors in the decision, the companies say.

“We were not going to be able to deliver on what we wanted to do,” said Moses Ndiritu, Director of Stone HMIS, Afya Research Africa. “We spent money, we used other devices, and without that particular device (Columbo), we wouldn’t have been able to create a unique identification system using biometrics in such difficult places as where we work.”

By successfully providing a fingerprint-based Personal Universal Unique Identifier (PUUI) to people in remote areas, ARA was able to treat 35,000 patients in 2017 with medical services according to data-driven best practises.

“ARA’s ingenious, creative solution to healthcare in rural Kenya shows how powerful identity can be when applied to improving people’s lives,” added Stephen Thies, Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Biometrics. “We are proud that Columbo provided the key element for their program and look forward to supporting similar initiatives around the world.”
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