Avoiding Patient Identification Problems with Biometrics

Using biometrics to identify unconscious patients or those with Alzheimers or dementia

Photo courtesy of elefanterosado

Two stories in the news caught our eye over the past week where hospitals appealed for the public’s help to identify patients who were admitted under different circumstances. Occasionally, a person will enter a hospital or medical center without any patient identification and due to their medical condition (unconsciousness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.) the facility is unable to determine their identity.

The first case happened when officials and police in Shreveport, LA asked for the public’s help to identify the victim of an automobile accident when the unidentified patient was brought to the hospital without an ID. The only information that police and hospital officials had to go on was a possible first name and a theory on where the victim was from.

The second case comes from Los Angeles, CA where a man was brought to Memorial Medical Center by ambulance without any documentation or evidence of his identity. The article did not elaborate on why there was a problem identifying the patient since he appeared to be conscious but perhaps he was unable to speak or may have been suffering from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

Both of these cases demonstrate the periodic problems that hospitals and medical centers can experience when attempting to positively identifying a patient in the absence of a relative or friend or any type of insurance card or picture ID. To circumvent these types of problems in the future, healthcare facilities can deploy biometric patient identification to ID any patients who may have an existing medical record linked with a biometric template. If the patient arrives without the ability to confirm their identity, the healthcare facility can take a picture of their iris or scan their palm and quickly scan the master patient index (MPI) to determine if they have visited in the past.

In times of emergency (especially if someone arrives without the ability to identify themselves) a patient may have a special medical condition that would affect the care they receive and could die if a proper identification tool did not exist. Biometric patient ID can help to quickly identify that patient if their information has previously been established and is on file. Just another example of how biometric patient identification is a great fit for healthcare.

M2SYS CEO @themizan to Speak at 2012 Biometrics Summit in Miami

M2SYS CEO will be speaking about public safety and biometrics at the 2012 Biometrics Summit in Miami

M2SYS CEO to Speak at 2012 Biometrics Summit

Where: Miami Hilton Downtown, Miami, FL

When: February 27 – March 1, 2012

M2SYS Informational Session: Day two,  02/29/12, 3:25pm

M2SYS CEO Mizan Rahman will be speaking next week at the 2012 Biometrics Summit in Miami, FL. Mizan will be joined by James Rokosky from our partners at DSI-ITI, LLC. to dicsuss using multi-modal biometrics to enhance the public safety sector by securing the identification and tracking of inmates and visitors.

Due to increasing crime rates, correctional facilities are finding it difficult to securely manage the ever-growing number of identification records for prisoners and visitors. Proper identification of inmates prior to release is critical to public safety, and often times, over-populated and under-staffed jails may release unauthorized inmates due to human error or to inmates swapping ID bracelets with other inmates. Multi-modal biometric identification solutions provide a fail-safe way to properly manage correctional facilities. By using biometric identification at key areas throughout a detention center, the management system can track inmate and visitor movements throughout the day. Inmate and visitor whereabouts can be determined at any time, which increases accountability and in turn, increases overall jail security and safety.

Sharing experiences of how biometrics has evolved in the public safety sector, this session will focus on the functionality and advantages of using multi-modal biometric identification in detention centers for inmate and visitor management, including:

  • How to deploy biometric identification for prisoner and visitor identification within a facility
  • Why liabilities inherent with identity management in the public safety sector are virtually eliminated with biometric identification
  • Using accurate and efficient multi-modal biometric technology to track and control visitor registration and inmate intake, release, medicine dispersal and location

If you are in Miami for the conference, please drop in to hear Mizan speak. Hope to see you there!

Is that the Right Patient?

Today, we welcome a guest post from Iatric Systems.

Meaningful Use brings increased utilization of electronic records, providing instant access to patients’ medical information – which is a great thing. It also brings the heightened chance for error in patient identification and the subsequent disaster that creates. The ability to select the correct patient and verify their identity based on their prior visit medical record demographics from the health information system becomes more important than ever before. Misidentification at the point of entry creates major problems throughout the life of the patient’s account. First and foremost is the contamination of the patient’s medical chart and the impact incorrect medical information could present to the patient. We could contend that cleaning up incorrect patient information was in some ways easier when everything was paper-based compared to what it will be with electronic records.

The HIPAA impact of sharing the incorrectly selected patient’s information with the wrong patient or patient’s family also looms on the horizon. What if the patient who the record really belongs to shows up for care during this event? If the error goes unnoticed, the backend ramifications include billing the wrong insurance company and incorrect data going out to multiple places resulting in more work to correct the error and rebill the correct payer. If the patient finds out you selected the wrong patient for their care episode, how does that impact their perception of the hospital and level of competent care they can expect?

Many factors impact the incorrect selection of a patient, including the HIS system, staff carelessness or patients providing incorrect information during the admitting process. A common error is the patient changing their last name since the last visit, thus creating a new MPI number that does not include the patient’s vital past medical history.

Another area of concern is medical identify theft. Over 14 million people have become victims of identity theft this year alone. Medical identify theft is the fastest growing aspect of identify theft. What ramifications can you expect if your hospital provides care to a patient who used a stolen medical identify for treatment? Both a contaminated medical record that may impact the care of both patients and a financial loss when the payor denies payment may result.

Never before has selecting the correct patient at registration been more important. Our current method of asking for a driver’s license to verify identity is no longer a guarantee. Hospitals need to look at new methods to make sure that the patient is correct. Biometrics is one possibility that I have felt is an effective solution for years. Patients, for the most part, show up in the hospital with a finger, palm or iris that could be used to validate the patient’s identify. Patients that arrive unconscious pose another level of concern.

What better community service could a hospital provide than assuring their patients that their identify will be protected by installing biometric technology? Biometric technology could also assist with the Red Flag regulation. Providing patients an easy way to establish identify by hosting health fairs to register their biometric identify in advance of care is both a community service and improves each patient’s medical safety.

Iatric Systems

Kay Jackson is Manager of Software Certification, Compliance and Financial at Iatric Systems. Iatric Systems provides solutions for Meaningful Use including a Meaningful Use Manager Dashboard, Public Health Interfaces, Patient Portal, CPOE, Patient Discharge instructions and Clinical Document Exchange.

You can follow Iatric Systems on Twitter: @IatricSystems
You can also find them on LinkedIn


Video on India’s UID Biometrics Initiative

Over the holidays, SkyNews posted a video on YouTube which provides an overview of India’s current UID project aimed at gathering the biometric data of its 1.2 billion citizens in order to provide better access to the welfare state. As with most large scale biometric data gathering projects, there are arguments for and against the merit of the initiative from proponents and critics.

Proponents say that the project will help lift many citizens out of poverty, keep welfare funds from being siphoned by corrupt politicians and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government spending on public welfare. Opponents argue that capturing biometric data is tantamount to an invasion of privacy and India’s government can’t be trusted to store this type of data which could be exploited to set up surveillance on citizens or shared with other countries.

Some interesting facts about the UID project:

  • Over 1.2 billion citizens in India
  • 2.4 billion irises
  • 12 billion fingerprints

Here is the video:


What are your thoughts on India’s UID project? Will it be successful at its proposed intentions or exploited by the government?

Biometrics in Healthcare — One to Many Identification as a Way to Eliminate Patient Fraud

Checking in at the Dr’s Office

Healthcare professionals are catching on to the value of using biometrics for patient identification. As cases of medical identity theft increase and liability mounts, the industry has been turning to biometrics to ensure 100% patient identification accuracy, safeguard patient health, eliminate medical identity fraud, and cut costs. In addition, biometric patient identification systems instantly interface with any electronic health record or patient management software which means they can be up and running quickly without any database or code-level integration needed. Seamless interface capability helps smooth the transition from a more traditional means of identifying patients (name, DOB, social security number) to biometrics, a more modernized method that uses physiological characteristics of the human body to identify a patient.

Before you consider investing in a biometric patient identification system, it is important to understand the two fundamental differences in how back end biometric engins/systems/algorithms authenticate an individual:

a) 1:1 (one to one) verification – This method of authentication answers the question: Am I who I claim to be? and involves confirming or denying a person’s claimed identity. For example, when used in patient identification a patient would present a form of identification (driver’s license, social security card, insurance card, etc.) and after their record is pulled up they would then scan their biometric information to verify that they are the same person their identification states they are.

b) 1:N (one to many) identification – This method of authentication answers the question: Who am I? and the system must identify a person from a list of users in the template database. For example, when used in patient identification a patient would scan their biometric information first which immediately pulls up the patient record associated with their template before presenting any other form of identification.

Why is it important to understand the differences between biometric verification and biometric identification when it comes to eliminating medical identity fraud and duplicate records? Relying on 1:1 verification can create problems during patient registration. Since medical records are usually associated with a person’s date of birth or social security number, 1:1 verification creates the possibility of a person using a forged, fake or stolen ID to link their biometric identity to another patient’s record. Furthermore, since ID’s or insurance cards can be forged repeatedly then it’s possible that multiple medical records could exist for the same person all using the same biometric template. 1:1 verification would not catch this at registration.

The key to eliminating patient fraud is to catch a perpetrator at the time of registration before services are rendered. 1:N matching allows a healthcare facility to prevent medical identity theft by instantly performing a dedupe of their records before the record is created.

Understanding how biometric patient identification works and the functionality of the backend system is essential to working towards the ultimate goal of improving patient care. Eliminating patient identify fraud and lowering medical liability litigation costs  is key for the healthcare industry to maintain economic vitality to continue the fight of safeguarding our health.