NYC hospital use palm scans to identify patients

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.”

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