establishing accurate patient identification in healthcare is critical

CHIME Breathes New Life Into Patient Identity Crisis in Healthcare

establishing accurate patient identification in healthcare is critical

Did CHIME’s recent letter to Congress stressing the importance of establishing a national patient identifier light a fire under the government to act?

Last week, word came from Washington D.C. that the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) included language in a letter written to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions that accentuated the importance of accurate patient identification as a key component to ensure patient safety. In the letter, CHIME CEO Russell Branzell wrote:

“The accurate and effective matching of patients with their healthcare data is a significant threat to patient safety. We must first acknowledge that the lack of a consistent patient identity matching strategy is the most significant challenge inhibiting the safe and secure exchange of health information. As our healthcare system begins to realize the innately transformational capabilities of health IT, moving forward toward nationwide health information exchange, this essential core functionality consistency in patient identity matching must be addressed.”

Kudos to CHIME for resurrecting this issue and calling intention to its importance in the scope of the new healthcare industry paradigm of fluidly sharing patient data both in and outside of healthcare networks to advance to goal of improving both individual and population health. In their letter, CHIME and Branzell also recommended that Congress remove the prohibition levied on HHS every year since 1999 that prohibits the use of federal funds for the development of a unique patient identifier. 

CHIME’s actions are extremely significant in the overall scope of inching closer to the establishment of a national patient identification credential because they are arguably the most influential healthcare lobbyist on Capitol Hill representing the general views of over 1,400 members around the world, many of which are healthcare CIOs — a very powerful voice in health IT. The root of the patient identification problem at hand stems from multiple sources – lack of industry standards, a lack of consistency on how patient data is collected, and the public’s perception that they don’t have to show ID when accessing healthcare, just to name a few. Couple that with the aggressive push to establish concrete interoperability between healthcare systems for the seamless exchange of patient health data and you can see where the conundrum lies.

We have always thought that initiatives set in motion by the healthcare industry championing interoperability have always been sort of a “cart before the horse” scenario. Realistically, how can the healthcare industry expect to achieve meaningful interoperability when one of the core issues to reaching that goal (accurate patient identification) gets little to no attention as a key factor in its success? Furthermore, lack of a sustainable, federated patient identification credential inhibits progress towards the “triple aim” of healthcare — improving the patient experience, improving population health, and reducing the per capita cost of care.

Think the situation could get more complex? Don’t worry, it does. When you factor in the explosion of patient touchpoints permeating the healthcare market (e.g. mobile devices, patient portals, mhealth apps), the patient identification issue becomes much more stickier. As the multitude of channels patients can now submit and access health data to grows, any national patient identification solution must have the ability to address accurate patient identification at each and every touchpoint patients come in contact with. No longer interactions in strictly brick and mortar environments, administering care to patients has slowly evolved in lockstep with the rise of digital health capabilities, pushing the urgency to implement stricter patient ID protocols in an effort to ensure accuracy and safety.

Data accuracy in healthcare is unlike data accuracy in any other industry. Consumers can always rectify banking errors for example, but errors in interpreting inaccurate or missing health data can be matters of life and death adding even more urgency to solving the patient identification dilemma.

As we move closer towards opening the door even wider to advanced discussions on the issues surrounding patient identification within the U.S. healthcare system, you can bet that CHIME will continue to be a strong voice and influential entity to mold and shape future policies that address the need to establish more accuracy at each point along the care continuum. 

What are your thoughts on CHIME’s statements to Congress? Will their efforts help left the moratorium? Please let us know in the comments below.


using biometric patient identification to identify unconscious patients

Identify Unconscious, Unknown Patients with Biometric Identification Technology

using biometric patient identification to identify unconscious patients

Did you know that not all biometric patient identification technologies have the ability to identify unconscious, unknown patients?

Unconscious, unknown patients pose a serious threat to patient safety

It’s 4:00 am and things are quiet in the ER. Patient traffic has slowed to a trickle, clinicians are busy treating existing patients and support staff are completing paperwork and administrative tasks during the down time. Suddenly, you get a fervent call that paramedics are en route to your facility with an unconscious, unidentified trauma patient, spitting out their vital signs and condition while the clinical staff leaps into action to prepare for their arrival. The ambulance roars into the ED bay with wailing sirens and flickering lights, the ED doors swing open, and the patient is quickly ushered in on a stretcher and into an exam room for immediate treatment.

Dealing with unconscious patients in a hospital environment can be a dangerous event.  Each facility has its own protocol for identifying unknown emergency room patients that usually involves assigning the patient an identification tag with a hospital number or medical record number, but the dangers and risks of treating a patient with no identification rise precipitously in the absence of any formal identification credentials. Unanswered questions about their past medical history is a significant risk and poses a direct threat to patient safety. 

Using biometrics to identify unconscious patients

What if there was a way to identify an unconscious patient and quickly access their medical history prior to treatment? Thanks to the increasing adoption of biometrics for patient identification, many hospitals are now equipped with a way to quickly and accurately identify unconscious patients through a fast biometric scan.

What’s important to know however is that unfortunately, not all biometric patient identification technologies have the ability to identify unconscious, unknown patients contrary to widespread belief that they can.

Why? Biometric patient identification technologies are not all cut from the same mold and while some do indeed contain the ability to identify unconscious patients, back end search capabilities limit others from being able to do so.

What’s often misunderstood about using biometrics for patient identification is how the back end search technology actually determines a patient’s identity. To illustrate, let’s take an 2 examples of patients who walk into two different hospital ED departments – one that uses palm vein biometrics for patient identification and the other that uses iris recognition.

  • Scenario #1 – John Doe steps through the doors of hospital A’s ED department and approaches the registration counter. A patient access coordinator asks the patient for their date of birth and then instructs them to place their hand on a palm vein reader which verifies their identity and then displays the unique medical record that has been linked to their biometric credentials.  This search methodology is referred to as “1:Few segmented identification” which compares a captured biometric template against a portion of the total biometric database. Prior to capturing John Doe’s biometrics, a credential needs to be provided prior to the biometric scan to determine which templates should be compared against. The biometric system would then compare the captured template against only those templates that share the same birth date. 
  • Scenario #2 – Jane Doe arrives at hospital B’s ED and is greeted by the patient access coordinator. Without asking any questions, Jane’s picture is taken with an iris camera that subsequently confirms her identity and pulls up the medical record that has been linked to her biometric credentials. This biometric matching type is referred to as “one-to-many identification” (1:N) which compares Jane’s captured biometric template against all stored templates. No other information is required besides the biometric scan. 

1:N matching does not require patients to provide an identity credential prior to performing a biometric scan which means that if an unknown, unconscious patient arrives at a hospital their identity can be quickly and accurately determined, even if they can’t speak. 

One to many searches are the only way to identify unconscious patients

Now imagine John Doe arriving at hospital A unconscious without any identification. If the hospital is using palm vein biometrics for patient identification, how will John be able to provide his birth date prior to someone placing his hand on the palm vein reader? The answer is that he can’t, rendering the system ineffective for identity verification on unconscious, unidentifiable patients.

If Jane Doe was unconscious and arrived at hospital B who uses iris biometrics for patient identification, clinicians could gently raise her eyelids, take her picture with an iris camera and instantly determine her identity without requiring any additional information.

Understanding the functionality of back end biometric searches can help guide healthcare facilities in the right direction prior to adopting the technology if the identification of unconscious, unknown patients is important. 

Learn more about the advantages of deploying a biometric patient identification system to increase patient safety through the “Resources” section of our Web site.


the use of biometrics for patient identification is increasing in the healthcare industry

Fortune Magazine Article Highlights Growing Use of Biometrics for Patient Identification

the use of biometrics for patient identification is increasing in the healthcare industry

A patient has their photo captured with an iris recognition camera at a hospital that has deployed biometrics for patient identification.

Excellent article in Fortune magazine today written by Laura Shin that addresses the topic of healthcare data breaches and whether or not the increasing use of biometrics for patient identification will add a layer of protection to help thwart hackers in the future and eliminate medical identity theft and healthcare fraud. 

We are grateful that Laura included us in her research for the article, mentioning our work with implementing iris biometrics for patient identification at Novant Health’s Clemmons Medical Center location and a specific case of when a father brought his son into their facility, pointing out that: Read more

more hospitals are using biometrics for patient identification in healthcare to increase patient safety

New Podcast Released on the use of Biometrics for Patient ID in Healthcare

more hospitals are using biometrics for patient ID in healthcare to increase patient safety

Listen in to this podcast from SecureID News on the rise of biometrics for patient identification in healthcare.

Thank you to our friends at Avisian publishing for allowing us the opportunity to appear as a guest on their latest SecureID News, “Regarding ID” podcast on the increasing use of biometrics for patient ID in healthcare. Listen in to this podcast where SecureID News’ Gina Jordan interviews both Michael Trader, President of M2SYS Technology, and Melaine Wilson, VP of Revenue Cycle Management at Novant Health to discuss:

  • What is RightPatient®?
  • Why patients are overwhelmingly being acceptive of using biometrics to protect their medical identity and ensure they receive accurate medical care
  • How RightPatient® protects patient privacy
  • Where is biometrics for patient identification being used across the care continuum?
  • How is Novant Health using RightPatient® at their hospitals?
  • What Novant Health patients are saying about using iris biometrics for identification
  • Why RightPatient® was built to seamlessly interface with ANY EHR provider software
  • How easy it is to scale up the RightPatient® system 
  • How RightPatient® is used for accurate patient identification across an EMPI
  • How RightPatient® supports: patient safety, quality outcomes, and hospital infection control

This podcast serves as an excellent resource for education on how the RightPatient® biometric patient ID system works, why hospitals are adopting the technology, what patients think about it, and it’s application to authenticate a patient at each and every touchpoint along the care continuum.

Thank you to Gina and the entire SecureID News team for the opportunity to appear on the podcast and discuss the rising use of biometrics for patient ID in healthcare!