Atlantic Health Automates ID With Biometrics

Palm vein scans are helping staff pull up patient records more efficiently and securely. One of eight Elite 100 Business Innovation award winners.

A high-five at Atlantic Health can be the key to much more than a celebration: An offered palm can be the key to a patient's complete confidential health record.

Atlantic Health System is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in New Jersey, with five hospitals and rehabilitation, home care, and hospice services, with about 1,600 beds for patients in total.

Atlantic faced a problem with duplicate records. Staff would create a new record with each patient visit, records that must later be combined, normalized, and checked for errors. Atlantic Health needed a system that could both speed patient intake and improve record accuracy. It looked to biometrics and chose palm vein scanning. 

"Before this there was paperwork at the point of registration, but it was a much more manual process," says Pat Zinno, director of information services and support for Atlantic Health System. "Bedside, there was the barcode scanner where the patient could be matched with records using the barcode printed on their wrist band."

For the palm scan technology, Atlantic Health System chose a system from Patient Secure through its long-time admission software integrator, McKesson. Linda Reed, VP and CIO at Atlantic Health, remembers the integration and deployment projects as fairly painless. “We have some very complex projects, but this wasn't one of them,” she says.

Duplicate Records A Big Problem

Reed says it wasn't a hard project to sell to hospital leaders either, given the reduction in duplicate records and the reduced risk from identify theft, since the palm scan prevents people from using someone else's medical information to receive treatment. "On any given day, we might see 25% of the work done be involved with duplicate records," Reed says. "Now that you're talking about medical identity theft it's even more important. It turned out to not be a hard sell because it makes so much sense."

Atlantic Health sees a number of benefits based on more than 50,000 patients entered into the new system. The system means fewer duplicate records, since a palm scan quickly calls up a patient's existing file. It helps registration clerks by bringing up existing records with a palm press, eliminating the need for the same questions to be asked over and over again at the point of patient intake. This simplified process reduces the time required for intake, eliminates a point at which inaccurate information can be introduced to the system, and reduces the need for registration clerks to reconcile different versions of patient records. "A number of systems in the old way might require different logins and information, but this one, based on the vein pattern in a hand, makes it a single-step process," Zinno says. 

And, for patients and staff, interaction with the technology makes a good impression on other medical professionals. "As soon as someone sees it in action they say, 'Wow, we have to put this in place,'" Zinno says.

And most importantly, it's resonating with patients. "It's a customer service issue -- letting the patients know that we're aware that they've been with us before,” Reed says. Plus, there's that "wow" factor. Says Zinno: "I've seen customer letters that mention the system where people say, 'Oh, it was the coolest thing.'"

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