Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
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6/17/2011
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Goodbye Clipboard, Hello Patient Palm Scanning At NYU

NYU Langone Medical Center uses vein recognition technology linked to an EHR system to streamline registration, guard against duplication, fraud.

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Patients at NYU Langone Medical Center no longer have to fill out the dreaded clipboard with their medical history or insurance data each time they come in for care because the Manhattan academic medical center has switched to palm recognition technology to identify and authenticate its patients.

NYU Langone said this week that it went live June 5 across its enterprise with a product called PatientSecure, from Tampa-based vendor HT Systems, that scans the veins in the palm with near-infrared light. Citing statistics from the vendor, Dr. Bernard A. Birnbaum, senior vice president, vice dean, and chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone, said vein recognition is 100 times more accurate than fingerprinting. "It had the highest accuracy and highest usability of any biometric technology we looked at."

The technology is linked to NYU's new Epic Systems electronic health records system, which also came online June 5 when the organization turned on patient registration, billing, and some ambulatory clinical documentation functions. "All sites have scanners as they come live on Epic," Birnbaum reported. That includes NYU Langone's Tisch Hospital, the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, and several affiliated medical practices.

NYU Langone claims to be the first medical center in the Northeast to adopt PatientSecure. HT Systems said on its website that more than 50 hospitals and hundreds of physician offices and clinics use the PatientSecure system, which has been on the market since 2007.

"The most important reason why we did this was for patient safety," Birnbaum told InformationWeek Healthcare . The medical center introduced digital photography to the registration process at the same time the biometric technology went live, taking pictures of patients when they register for the first time on the Epic EHR so staff can visually identify patients.

He said the photos will prevent clinicians from entering information into the wrong patient's record, which could happen when a caregiver enters a room where the EHR is open to another patient's chart. The system also helps prevent identity theft and other fraud.

The scanning and photography lengthen the initial registration process, but it saves time on follow-up visits because patients only have to re-scan their palms to bring up all their information, then verify their date of birth. There is no more need to keep Social Security numbers to identify patients, Birnbaum said.

"You just put your palm on the scanner and you're done registering at your doctor's office, no clipboard, no hassle of paperwork to check in, plus, it's absolutely secure," patient Michael Baldwin said in an NYU Langone press release. "It's immediate and instantaneous."

Birnbaum also noted that large academic centers often have duplicate records due to patients registering under their full name one time and a nickname on another visit, shortcuts by staff, or simply multiple patients with the same name. NYU said it has 125,000 instances where at least two patients have the same first and last names.

As of midweek, about 5,000 patients had been scanned. Birnbaum said that only about one patient a day has refused the palm scan in the 10 days since the system came online. Most of those who refused were worried about radiation, according to Birnbaum.

"It's interesting in particular that the elderly patients love it," he said. It's much easier than struggling to read and fill out paperwork each time they visit.

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