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Big Smart Health Card Rollout In The Big Apple

Mount Sinai Medical Center and eight affiliated hospitals plan to begin deploying more than 100,000 smart cards to patients in the spring.

The idea of having patients carry around smart cards that contain a chip that holds some of their personal health information isn't new. However, a large smart card deployment being rolled out in the New York City area next year could give the technology its biggest boost in health care to date.

Mount Sinai Medical Center, along with eight affiliated hospitals, next spring plans to begin deploying more than 100,000 smart cards to its patients. In total, there will be more than 45 related and affiliated health facilities in the region involved with the smart card initiative.

The project, which will be rolled out in phases and might eventually provide the facilities' 500,000 patients with smart cards, could also serve as a model for a regional health information network effort in New York City overall, which has a population of about 8 million, says Mount Sinai VP of IT Paul Contino.

"New York is as densely populated as you get, so this is a significant rollout," says a spokesman for Siemens Communications Inc., the smart card technology vendor for the project.

The project builds upon a smart card pilot program launched in 2003 by Elmhurst Hospital, an affiliate of Mount Sinai Medical Center. For this next big rollout, however, Siemens and Mount Sinai are co-developing a new generation of the technology, which Siemens will eventually make commercially available to others, says Contino. Siemens is providing $2 million for the project, he says.

The cards, which will also feature a photo of the patient, are embedded with a "secure microchip" that will contain demographic information—like patient name and address—and also medical history, drug prescription and allergy, recent lab results, and other key data, says Contino. The information can be updated whenever a patient receives new health services or has a change in health status. The cards, which are read by devices that can attach to PCs, require that patients enter a PIN before the chip's data can be accessed. If cards are lost or stolen, information cannot be accessed without the PIN, Contino says.

In addition to Mount Sinai Medical Center, the other affiliated hospitals participating in the new project are Mount Sinai Hospital of Queens, Cabrini Medical Center, Elmhurst Hospital, Englewood Hospital, North General Hospital, Queens Hospital, St. John's Riverside Hospital, and Settlement Health.

"No other rollouts have reached 100,000 cards yet in health care," says Randy Vanderhoof, executive director industry organization, Smart Card Alliance. "This will be the largest smart health card rollout in the country," he says.

So far, the use of smart cards have been more popular in some other sectors, including government, whose smart card applications include the use of the technology to restrict physical assess to secure areas.

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