Palm Vein Scanner Registers Patients at California Hospital

When patients were admitted to the new El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California in November, the registration process included something most people associate with sci-fi thrillers — a biometric registration system that “reads” patients' identities by scanning the unique vein structures in their palms.

The system El Camino Hospital is using as an integral part of its new patient registration and identification system is the Fujitsu PalmSecure palm vein biometric authentication technology. The PalmSecure technology's integration with HT Systems' PatientSecure and McKesson's Star Hospital Information Systems provides El Camino Hospital with a highly accurate, nonintrusive verification method for effectively registering and identifying patients. The combined solution protects patient privacy and helps to prevent medical identity theft while allowing patients to receive swift, accurate care.

“It's all about patient safety,” said Becky Smith, Manager of Patient Registration at El Camino Hospital. “We've invested millions in technology to enhance patient safety — and the No. 1 way to achieve that is to correctly identify patients and match them to their appropriate medical records. If physicians and nurses are using correct patient medical histories and patient information, you can significantly reduce the possibility of errors.”

The Fujitsu PalmSecure sensor uses a near infrared light to capture a patient's palm vein pattern, generating a unique biometric template that is matched against a database of enrolled users' palm vein patterns. This advanced, vascular pattern recognition technology provides a highly reliable type of authentication — the PalmSecure solution's false acceptance ratio is just 0.00008 percent — in a process that is nonintrusive, easy to use and generates extremely fast comparisons.

Although the Joint Commission has cited accurate patient identification as critical to patient security and safety, El Camino Hospital is one of only a handful of hospitals nationwide that has taken patient security to the next level with biometric technology. It is the second hospital in California and the only hospital in Silicon Valley with the PalmSecure system, acknowledged by experts to be significantly more reliable and user-friendly than fingerprints and far less expensive and intrusive than retinal scanning.

“The PalmSecure technology is a proven biometric strong authentication solution. By implementing PalmSecure technology combined with HT Systems' PatientSecure system, El Camino Hospital is demonstrating its commitment to ensure patient privacy and medical records security,” said Vic Herring, VP of Sales and Business Development, Advanced Technology Group, Fujitsu Frontech North America. “We are very honored to support El Camino Hospital's efforts joining other forward-thinking, innovative health care facilities nationwide to promote patient safety while improving health care efficiency.”

The technology benefits all patients, but is especially helpful in the emergency department, where time is of the essence and triage of a patient cannot begin until the admission process has started. “If we can get a date of birth and scan the patient's palm, that's all we need,” Smith said.

Not only does this new registration system speed up the hospital admissions process, it also protects patients by dramatically reducing the possibility of medical identity theft.

“It's much easier to falsify cards and documents than a biometric attribute,” Smith said. “Although someone can steal or falsify your insurance card and/or your driver's license, they cannot falsify your unique physical features. Once you are registered in our system, you have far more protection from someone trying to use your medical insurance and incurring medical debts in your name.”

Medical identity theft is a growing problem. According to the World Privacy Forum, federal data showed that more than 250,000 Americans were victimized in 2007 alone. “Californians could easily be on the receiving end of 25,000 to 50,000 of these crimes a year,” Smith said. “And it's not just a financial crime. When someone else uses your medical identity, their medical records can be combined with yours, resulting in your physician having inaccurate information about you. This can lead to improper medical treatment. From allergies to pre-existing conditions, any misinformation contained in your medical record could be dangerous or life threatening. This is another reason why El Camino Hospital is taking this preventative security measure.”

The PalmSecure Registration System is linked to El Camino Hospital's state-of-the-art health information system. Every subsequent prescription, treatment and diagnosis gets added into a highly integrated digital database. At every step, the PalmSecure system is available to verify and confirm that the right patient is getting the right treatment.

“With the health care industry rapidly moving to electronic medical records and electronically storing critical data about patients, it is more important than ever that patients be quickly and accurately identified anytime they enter a health care facility,” said David Wiener, President, HT Systems. “With El Camino Hospital added to our list of clients, HT Systems now has more than 1,000 PalmSecure sensors deployed with more than one million patients being identified by their palm vein pattern by the PatientSecure system nationally.”

“The PalmSecure system is one more important way that ‘The Hospital of Silicon Valley' is leveraging technology to improve patient care,” said Ken Graham, CEO of El Camino Hospital. “We'll do whatever it takes to deliver care safely and efficiently, while continuing to improve the patient's experience.”
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