Your New Biometric Password May Be Your Veins

Will the veins in your hand be the biometric identifier to unlock your medical records at every healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacy? Here's a look at how this is being used today.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

August 10, 2017

3 Min Read

Biometrics has been discussed for years as the answer to our security concerns and password woes. The implementation of these advanced authentication methods has been slower than expected in most industries. Most of us are still struggling to manage passwords and the data breaches we hear about regularly. On a recent visit to the doctor I got a taste of a new biometric authentication process in person in the form of vein analytic biometrics.

Vein scanning biometric systems use infrared light waves to analyze the structure of an individual's veins in their hand. In this case, it is linked to a patient profile that contains their relevant information from insurance to emergency contacts. The scan provides immediate access to a patient's medical records without divulging sensitive information such as social security number and birthdate on subsequent visits, consequently helping to stop identity thieves. The technology was being used to register patients for office visits and testing. Furthermore, vein biometric scanning is not transferable and can provide a positive identity for a patient who might be unconscious or unable to respond.

Imprivata, a Massachusetts-based company, has developed the vein biometric system for use in healthcare settings to enable identification of the patient at any time in their life. Vein biometric scans do not change with age or other life changes, allowing patients to be rapidly identified without compromising their personal data. Imprivata has made its technology available for use on desktops, at patient kiosks, and other technology locations in use at hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. The technology also eliminates some of the stigma some patients associate with fingerprints that many see as more of a law enforcement technique. Fujitsu, Hitachi, and M2Sys are also marketing vein biometric technology across many industries and markets.

Research Markets and Services predicts that the vein biometrics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% from 2016 to 2020. The firm predicts that palm vein recognition will be used both as a single authentication and in dual authentication scenarios in a broad range of industries from utilities, government, and financial services as a fraud deterrent.


On my particular visit, the vein scanning didn't seem to expedite my family member's trip to get tests performed because there was a setup process to create the record and then the scan. Once the record is created the subsequent visits should be more seamless and expeditious. Additionally, I noticed that the scanners were not yet prevalent in all offices in the building.

Like other biometric identification systems, if the technology is fully utilized and integrated across all platforms, and all platforms are integrated with each other, the potential is incredible for medical professionals and patients. Patients visiting multiple doctors would no longer need to carry copies of their records and prescriptions. If insurance companies participate, the necessity of the dreaded paper referral could disappear. The pharmacy industry could also benefit from the elimination of drug shopping and drug interactions since all patient records could be associated with the patient.

Like any new identification technology, privacy issues also abound. Patients may not want every physician viewing their medical history. Patients may also not want their information accessed if they are incapacitated for fear of confidentiality and misuse. There is also concern about storing the vein scans and using them for identification when ransomware and hacking could cripple systems that access patient records. There is no doubt the technology is innovative and can help make the medical profession more efficient, but it does come with risks.

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