Coming soon: Check in at the hospital with the palm of your hand

25 Aug 2015 9:27 PM | Denny Brennan (Administrator)

Aug 25, 2015, 4:34pm EDT

Jessica Bartlett, Reporter, Boston Business Journal

The Imprivata device scans patients' hands as a better way to identify them.

Next time you walk into the hospital, you might be identified not by your social security number or birthday, but by the pattern of veins in the palm of your hand.

Imprivata has launched a new patient identification process called “palm vein biometrics”, which takes a scan of a patient’s hand and captures the unique palm vein pattern.

The Imprivata device scans patients' hands as a better way to identify them.

The technology will link a patient to their medical record, and is intended to diminish duplicative electronic health records, reduce attempts at identity theft and diminish insurance fraud, without the stigma of fingerprints or the invasiveness of an eye scan.

“It’s 100 times more accurate (than fingerprint biometrics). It’s convenient, there’s no stigma and it’s really easy to use,” said Omar Hussain, president and CEO of Imprivata. “Put your palm down and you’re easily identified. As patient ID becomes the next big issue, we thought this acquisition would position Imprivata to capitalize on great technology.”

The technology came out of HT Systems of Tampa, a company Imprivata acquired in April for $19 million. Imprivata launched the technology through its own software system on Tuesday.

The Lexington health IT company said it plans to market the device to hospitals, either as self-serve kiosks or at the enrollment station in hospitals. From there, the hospitals will likely deploy it to clinics where the hospital’s physicians participate.

Hussain said Imprivata closed on the deal with HT Systems in June, and the company has spent the last several months ramping up the product and the branding.

The technology will expand Imprivata’s offerings from data security for providers — such as a single log-in for electronic health records, to patient identification and enrollment.

Patient identification is one of the biggest issues in health care, Hussain said. Studies have shown that approximately 10-15 percent of all medical records are duplicates. Another 6-10 percent of medical errors occur because a physician is treating the wrong patient.

“You identify the wrong patient, you’re talking life and death. When you’re not sure of the patient, you start a new record,” Hussain said. “As health care systems start to get automated, that 10-15 percent of duplicative medical records becomes a patient safety issue and a monitoring issue. Fraud is up 22 percent in the U.S. because if one person doesn’t have insurance, they will use their brother’s information. If the hospital misidentifies the patient, the hospital gets sued.”

Case studies in a Texas hospital showed there were 531 Maria Garcias with the same birthday enrolled in the hospital’s database. Another 70,000 patients matched up with another record that had the same first and last name and date of birth.

“Right now, one of the biggest arguments in congress is unless you can uniquely identify a patient, all these arguments about interoperability and improving patient safety is irrelevant,” Hussain said.

Imprivata has added dozens of employees to support the new technology, and Hussain said the 429-person company will expand to help product lines as needed.

“We’re going to expand a successful technology and bring it to the market globally over the next year or so,” Hussain said.

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