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Are Biometrics Tools Practical For Hospital Use?

Posted on February 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

In theory, using biometrics tools could solve some of the hospitals’ biggest data management problems.

For example, if the patient had to register for treatment when seeking care at a hospital emergency department (something I saw in place at my local hospital), it would presumably cut down medical identity fraud substantially. Also, doing patient matching using biometric data could make the process far more precise and far less error-ridden. When implemented correct it can achieve these goals.

In addition, requiring hospital employees to use biometric data to access patient records would lock down those records more tightly, and would certainly make credential sharing between employees far more difficult.

Unfortunately, hospitals that want to use biometric technology have to overcome some major obstacles. According to an article by Dan Cidon, CTO of NextGate, those obstacles include the following:

  • Biometric solutions need to be integrated with primary hospital systems, and that process can be difficult.
  • Most biometric solutions can only manage a subset of patients, which makes it difficult to scale biometrics at an enterprise level.
  • Standard biometric solutions like palm vein and iris scanners demand highly-specialized standalone hardware.
  • Bringing biometrics in-house demands significant server-side hardware and internal infrastructure, bringing the total cost to one that even major health systems might balk at.

On the other hand, Cidon notes, some of these issues can be minimized.

Take the problem of acquiring and maintaining specialized devices. To bypass this issue, Cidon recommends that hospitals try using lower-impact solutions like facial recognition, commodity technology built into patient smartphones. By relying on patient smartphones, hospitals can offload enrollment and registration to patient-owned devices, which not only simplifies deployment but also increases user comfort levels.

He also notes that by using a cloud-based approach, hospitals can avoid allocating a high level of server-side hardware and infrastructure to biometrics, as well as getting added flexibility and affordability, especially if they leverage commodity hardware to do the job.

Even if hospitals act on Cidon’s recommendations, going biometric for patient matching, security and medical identity theft protection will be a major project. After all, hospitals’ existing IT infrastructure almost certainly wasn’t designed to support these solutions and putting them in place effectively will probably take a few iterations.

Still, if putting biometric solutions in place can address critical safety and operational issues, especially dangerous patient record mismatches, it’s probably worth a try.

Hospital CIO David Chou’s Top 3 Focuses for 2016

Posted on December 28, 2015 I Written By

David Chou is the Vice President / Chief Information & Digital Officer for Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Children’s Mercy is the only free-standing children's hospital between St. Louis and Denver and provide comprehensive care for patients from birth to 21. They are consistently ranked among the leading children's hospitals in the nation and were the first hospital in Missouri or Kansas to earn the prestigious Magnet designation for excellence in patient care from the American Nurses Credentialing Center Prior to Children’s Mercy David held the CIO position at University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only academic health science center. David also served as senior director of IT operations at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and CIO at AHMC Healthcare in California. His work has been recognized by several publications, and he has been interviewed by a number of media outlets. David is also one of the most mentioned CIOs on social media, and is an active member of both CHIME and HIMSS. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here and follow me at Twitter Facebook.

As we wrap up 2015, here are three main focus areas that IT leaders must be prepared for in 2016

Mega Mergers / Affiliations are going to continue across the nation. Healthcare institutions realize that it pays to be big and it will be important to have the organizational size in order to be a player in the market. Almost every type of conceivable partnership is on track for the upcoming year. We have seen partnership between competitors (Kaiser and Dignity Health) that were unthinkable a few years ago. These types of creative partnership and affiliation will enable healthcare providers to regain the advantage against insurers when negotiating reimbursements and also gain best practices from each other to improve quality of care. We will also continue to see community hospitals collaborate with top tier healthcare systems and academic medical centers to generate more consumer options. To control costs, tertiary hospitals are rapidly moving care with lower acuity levels to the community hospitals.

Emerging Technologies such as smart-phones and patient tracking devices are catching on in healthcare and they will become the standard. Besides telling patients about the wait times in the emergency rooms, these devices are now also being used for telemedicine to make home visits and perform diagnosis of non-emergent medical disorders. Consumers are now storing their health information, list of medications and even the costs of treatment on smart-phones. With the smart-phones, consumers will be able to access their health records anywhere anytime. Smart-phones will also allow the ability to speak to a doctor and/or let the doctor see the patient remotely to deliver care from the doctor’s office to the patient’s location. Surveys indicate that the use of mobile devices for maintenance of medical health have doubled in just the past 2 years and many consumers will prefer to use their smart phones to connect to their healthcare provider in the coming year. The biggest question that remains to be seen is how patients and hospitals will manage security on these devices!

Data Security and patient privacy issues are always a concern. Because of the threat from hackers, almost every major medical device will need to have security features to prevent breaches that could cripple the industry. Consumers have already started to become weary of buying any new medical devices and hesitant to use what is available in hospitals because of recent hacking reports. Physician’s office and hospitals will have to step up and ensure there are no breaches in security. Otherwise, the penalties will be severe. More important, it can ruin the reputation of a hospital and lead to a decline in patients.

What are your top 3 focuses in 2016?

Let’s Connect On Facebook and Twitter @dchou1107.

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