Patients visiting Florida Hospital Zephyrhills will now encounter a high-tech identification device at the medical center.
PatientSecure, a device that images veins in the hand, is now being used to register and identify all patients.
The biometric identification solution—manufactured by Imprivata, a Massachusetts-based IT Company — uses infrared light to scan a patient’s palm, and then links the unique vein pattern to each patient’s electronic health record.
The new apparatus was introduced at the hospital on Sept. 6. Hospital officials claim the device reduces paperwork, improves accuracy and helps to prevent identity theft.
“This technology streamlines the registration process by automatically pulling up a patient’s record, provides added protection from medical identity theft, and ensures each patient is correctly linked to their unique medical record,” said Gwen Alonso, the hospital’s chief nursing officer.
Nationwide, the number of patients at risk of encountering medical identification issues is staggering.
A 2012 health care report by the Wall Street Journal shows that 7 percent to 10 percent of patients are misidentified during medical record searches.
Moreover, a 2015 study by the Medical Identify Theft Alliance estimates that 2.3 million individuals are affected by medical identity theft annually, a figure growing by about 22 percent per year.
Mike Vanderbilt, the hospital’s director of patient access, said the palm vein technology is more secure than if a patient provided insurance or Social Security numbers, which can easily be swapped or transposed during identification.
That helps reduce the risk of duplicate medical records, and errors in charting, he explained.
“The palm vein is more accurate than any of that other data,” Vanderbilt said.
“Once they’re scanned, it attaches that palm vein image to their record,” he said. “It actually assigns a series of unique code numbers to that patient, so the next time they come in, they can scan their hand…and it brings them right up in the computer system.”
PatientSecure also could be a lifesaving tool, in some instances.
Should an individual arrive to the facility in an unconscious state, or is unable to communicate, their hand can be placed on the device to reveal their electronic health record (medical history, allergies, current medications).
“If they had been put into this system at some point previously, it would pull them right up as well, without ever talking to them,” Vanderbilt said.
He noted the new registration process is “very quick” for patients.
“It really doesn’t add much to their registration experience as far as the timing goes,” Vanderbilt said. The hospital also has received positive feedback from patients, he added.
The identification tool is equally “very straightforward” for medical staff to utilize and access, Vanderbilt said.
“It’s a USB — sort of a plug and play into our computer system,” Vanderbilt said. “It’s kind of like if you just hook up a mouse to a computer, and of course there’s all the software and everything behind it.”
Should the identification system malfunction or crash, only then would patients be required to verify personal information — name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and address — to medical staff.
“If it were ever to go down, it’s similar to when you call your bank or your credit card company or even your cable company — they make you tell them who you are,” explained Vanderbilt.
“The palm scan is just one extra step that in the future will prevent us from having to ask all those questions. But, that would be the fallback if the system were down — we would still go through some verification steps to confirm their identity,” he said.
PatientSecure is currently being rolled out through Florida Hospital Zephyrhills’ parent company, Adventist Health System, which operates 46 facilities in 10 states.
According to Vanderbilt, the palm vein technology also will be installed in Florida Hospital-owned physician offices and other long-term care facilities.
“It’ll help make the coordination of care better,” he said.
Vanderbilt added: “It’s all linked to that one palm scan, so the whole continuum of health care — as long as the patient is using Florida Hospital — will be more streamlined.”
Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, a 139-bed regional medical center, is at 7050 Gall Blvd., in Zephyrhills. For additional information, visit FHZeph.org.
Published September 14, 2016