Identifying Patients by Their Eyes

Iris scanners, palm pattern readers, and other once-futuristic devices are becoming more common as providers turn to biometrics to reduce patient identification errors.

A healthcare clinic in the Bronx that serves a large low-income population has recently turned to eye scan technology it says has greatly lowered the risk for duplicated and merged medical records.

The Urban Health Plan clinic, featured in an article on CNN.com, fully integrated its iris identification system in 2009. Clinic employees now scan a patient’s eyes at registration, and within seconds the system matches the unique image to the patient’s medical record.

The iris detection program has helped cut down on cases of mistaken identities and lead to cleaner and more accurate patient medical records, the clinic says.

With growing concerns about adverse medical errors due to faulty patient records, medical identity theft and insurance fraud, more hospitals are looking for better identification tools.  

Serving a heavily Hispanic client base, where many of their 37,000 patients speak limited English and provide few Social Security numbers, the clinic needed another system for identifying patients. Mistaken identities were common, since the clinic has 50 Maria Hernandezes, 66 Maria Gonzaleses, 55 Jose Gonzalezes, 83 Carmen Rodriguezes, and 103 Jose Rodriguezes.

The clinic purchased the scanning system with assistance from the New York Department of Health.

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