Facial Recognition Enters into Healthcare

This blog explores health informatics—a collaborative activity connecting people, process, and technologies to produce trusted data for better decision-making.


By Clarice Smith, RHIA, CHP

 

Technopedia defines facial recognition as “a biometric software application capable of uniquely identifying or verifying a person by comparing and analyzing patterns based on the person’s facial contours.”

Facial recognition applications continue to expand into different aspects of our lives. For example, facial recognition technology can now be used instead of a password to unlock a user’s iPhone. Biometrics, including facial recognition, can be used to validate a user when making online purchases. This method is much more secure and convenient for the user than remembering user IDs and passwords. Facebook has developed facial recognition to identify and tag people in photos posted on the website. Facebook will even reach out to the person and ask “is this you?” If the person responds in the positive, the website has validated that instance of facial recognition for that person.

Some facial recognition programs work without obtaining consent from the person. The software using artificial intelligence compares the person’s face from a distance and matches the face to a database.

There are numerous applications being developed for use in healthcare using facial recognition. Several examples are below.

Facial recognition has the potential to revolutionize identity management. Once the patient has validated identity and entered into the system, they could potentially “register” by presenting themselves to a kiosk, log into the system using facial recognition, and then sign forms, etc. without human intervention.

Patients can use facial recognition to verify they are taking their medication as prescribed by:

  • Logging into the system using their mobile device
  • Having the device record the patient’s face, the medication, and the patient taking the medication

Facial recognition can be used to scan a patient’s face to determine the patient’s level of pain in order to manage chronic pain and medication usage.

Computerized personal assistants (social robots) will need facial recognition to interpret the emotional state of the patient in order to assist the patient appropriately.

Certain genetic diseases can be diagnosed using facial recognition.

Facial recognition can be used to identify staff as well as patients, making healthcare safer and more efficient.

As with any new applications, healthcare organizations must carefully consider all the privacy, security, and legal ramifications of implementation as well as patient “push back.” What safeguards and assurances will be put into place to assure the patient that their information will not be shared and will be secure? The answers to these questions will be addressed as the applications are deployed and will provide a new challenge to patient privacy and security.

 

Clarice Smith is director of HIM at AnMed Healthy.

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