Hospitals leveraging biometrics to identify patients

Amid a major period of consolidation in the healthcare space, health systems have grown so large that using a patient’s name or date of birth is no longer a good identifier. Instead, hospitals are turning to biometric systems, which use fingerprints or other physical characteristics to identify people, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Mismatched patients with the same name and date of birth are an increasingly common problem, though mistakes in identification can also happen when information is incorrectly entered. In one Houston-based health system, nearly 3,000 women had the same name, including more than 500 who had the same date of birth.

The issue is so large that nearly one-fifth of respondents in a 2012 survey of healthcare chief information officers said there was at least one incidence where a mismatch led to patient harm in the past year, the WSJ reported.

“And the potential for mismatches has grown since then,” the paper stated.

To avoid this, hundreds of hospitals have turned to biometrics to correctly identify patients. One projection put the portion of healthcare providers using these tools at 40 percent by 2022. However, health systems need to ensure biometric integration in existing IT systems is secure. Other standards on using biometrics across the healthcare space will also need to be fleshed out as these systems continue to be more widely used.

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