Biometric technology verifies patients’ identity
BayCare Health Systems implements palm-vein recognition
technology to streamline and secure patient processing.
The first step in patient safety is correctly identifying patients at the point of entry to the healthcare facility (including matching them to the correct medical record). As the increasing number of cases of medical identity theft have shown, however, conventional identification processes are no longer adequate and present numerous issues that continue to put a patient’s safety at risk. These include simple clerical errors, technological failures and even dishonest patients misrepresenting their identity.
“At BayCare, we wanted to address these issues and implement a solution that surpasses all conventional patient registration and identification means,” says Jim Schwamb, vice president of patient financial services at BayCare Health Systems, a community-based, 10-hospital healthcare system headquartered in Tampa. “Through the use of cutting-edge palm-vein biometric technology integrated with electronic medical records (EMR) and registration systems, we are able to address the challenges associated with patient identification and patient safety.”
Schwamb knew that implementing biometric technologies for patient identification could help BayCare accelerate the identification process at registration, as well as reduce costs associated with medical-record duplication. BayCare was also looking for a way to prevent medical identity theft, reduce expensive fraud by preventing insurance card sharing, and even save patients’ lives by quickly and accurately identifying a “John or Jane Doe” patient who could not be easily identified though conventional means.
The International Biometrics Group (IBG) evaluates biometric products through comparative testing. Recent IBG analysis found that palm-vein technology competes well with iris-scanning technology in accuracy, and demonstrated low occurrences of both false positives and false negatives. Palm-vein biometrics can ensure near-zero enrollment failure, essentially allowing any patient to be able to use the technology.
Palm-vein biometrics involves shining a near-infrared light at a patient’s palm. The light penetrates the outside skin and reflects off deoxygenated blood in the body. In simple terms, it illuminates a patient’s veins and produces a photograph of the vein pattern. This pattern represents a wealth of differentiation factors unique to the individual.
BayCare was the first healthcare system in Florida to implement palm-vein recognition for patient identification. BayCare’s existing information system – Siemens OAS Gold (Siemens Invision, Signature and EAD) – was enhanced to support the Fujitsu PalmSecure palm-vein biometric technology to link patients’ unique palm-vein patterns to their EMR through integrator HT System’s PatientSecure solution.
The combined system, named Patient Secure Identity (PSI), has a number of business and clinical benefits, Schwamb says. First and foremost is patient safety. With the PSI system, BayCare knows that patients in front of the registrar are who they claim to be, and that their medical records match.
“Our clinicians know they are looking at a single and complete medical history for the patient. No one else can be associated with that EMR,” says Lynda Gorken, director, BayCare CBO management support. “It eliminates duplicate medical records and prevents overlays, in addition to preventing medical identity theft and insurance card sharing. This approach also assists us in complying with the FACT Act ‘Red Flag’ regulation.”
In addition, the PSI biometric patient-identification system helps improve patient care, she says. Not only does the clinician work with a complete medical history, but patient satisfaction is increased by making the identification at front-end registration more timely and accurate, without having to request sensitive personal information (such as a Social Security number).
The project-management team, lead by Gorken, along with programmers from BayCare’s information-services department and HT Systems, interviewed key liaisons in various departments to document the project scope. All patient-identification screens within the registration system were mapped out and determinations were made as to when and on what screens patient identification or patient enrollment would occur.
A key decision was made to add the functionality to allow enrollments for “non-patient” – for example, family members in the waiting room could enroll in the system. Information services added a virtual-machine server to the existing virtual environment for the back-end scripts and HL7 interface links, and also added the biometric database to the existing SQL Server consolidated environment.
Design from phase one was presented to the programmers from information services and HT Systems in its final form. The technical team reviewed the design and decided that changes to existing screens were needed, as well as, in some cases, new screens.
Testing and training
The system required that data be transferred between the Siemens OAS Gold system, the Fujitsu PalmSecure palm-vein biometric scanner and HT System’s PatientSecure biometric scanning module. The on-site programmers then worked with the technical resource from HT Systems to implement the custom-tailored design and delivered a functional test system on schedule for quality-assurance testing.
The project management team then put together a test plan mapped directly to the project-scope document, tested each functionality point and stress tested the system. During this phase, the information-services staff deployed the necessary drivers and the Fujitsu PalmSecure palm-vein biometric sensors.
BayCare then implemented a “train-the-trainer” approach, consisting of the background and usage of the system. This approach also included patient-communication scripts to assure that BayCare had consistent information disseminated to the patients. When training was complete, BayCare activated its PSI system. There were trainers and technical resources on site 24/7 to assure all questions and issues were immediately addressed.
With a project budget of approximately $1 million (including labor and training), the first facility was live within 60 days of the project kick-off. BayCare completed the rollout of the entire health system within six months, installing the system in hospitals, outpatient centers and outreach lab locations.
The top priorities for BayCare Health System included ensuring patient safety and preventing identity theft and fraud. BayCare is now able to quickly and accurately identify a patient at any one of its 10 hospitals, clinics or imaging centers.
The PSI system also links BayCare to any of its other facilities. Once a patient is enrolled in the system, the associated medical record can be identified by the unique vein pattern anytime the patient is present at any of BayCare Health System’s 10 hospitals or numerous outpatient facilities. If a patient has been at one of BayCare’s facilities previously, the staff simply needs to scan the patient’s hand to bring up the corresponding medical record.
“Our identity system not only improves patient safety associated with identification, but also increases our overall administrative efficiency and customer satisfaction,” says Schwamb. “The system protects patient privacy and safeguards electronic medical records, while streamlining the registration process, meeting compliance requirements and providing the highest-quality care and service possible to patients.” HMT