NEW YORK, (Reuters Life!) – A New York City hospital has stopped asking many patients to dig out health insurance cards and fill in endless forms, instead identifying them by scanning the unique lattice of veins in their palm.
The new biometric technology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center is expected to speed up patient check-ins and eliminate medical errors.
Studies have shown that hospital errors are behind as many as 98,000 deaths a year in the United States.
“The primary reason we actually got into this was patient safety,” Bernard Birnbaum, the center’s vice dean and chief of hospital operations, said in a telephone interview.
The system does not require the patient be conscious at the time of check-in.
“The benefits so greatly outweighed the disadvantages it was a no-brainer to implement,” Birnbaum said.
The scanners are made by the technology services company Fujitsu and exploit the principle that, as with fingerprints and iris patterns, no two individuals’ palm-vein configurations are quite the same.
Using near-infrared waves, an image is taken of an individual’s palm veins, which software then matches with the person’s medical record. The initial set-up for a new patient takes about a minute, the hospital said, while subsequent scans only take about a second.
“We can then just ask one question – ‘Has your insurance changed?’“ Birnbaum said. “If ‘no’, you don’t have to fill out a single form.”