Hospitals Can Finally Put a Finger on Biometrics

Multispectral biometrics play an important role in healthcare applications


Biometric deployments in healthcare have traditionally been extremely difficult and problematic. Most conventional biometric systems fail to operate reliably in the harsh environments and situations found in most hospitals today. Frequent hand washing, heavy use of chemicals and cleaners, the wearing of latex gloves and a wide range of demographic issues make biometric enrollment and authentication quite difficult and challenging.

Because dry skin is so prevalent in the healthcare industry, due in part to constant hand washing, traditional fingerprint sensors can produce up to a 20 percent failure rate. In other situations, when the policy allows it, healthcare workers wearing latex gloves do not want to remove them to use the biometric reader. However, multispectral fingerprint sensors capture fingerprint data beneath the surface of the skin so that dryness or gloves create no problems for reliable reads.

That’s why biometric implementations using multispectral fingerprint sensors are becoming the solution for hospitals that spend $100 to $200 per employee per year supporting password-based systems—and even more for token- or card-based systems—while trying to ensure the protection and safety of patient information.

Multispectral biometrics play an important role in healthcare applications, especially when there is a need to control access through positive identification of authorized users. HIPAA regulations mandate patient confidentiality and biometrics can help ensure that only authorized personnel gain access to those records.

Another application is matching the correct patient to the correct record: a high-performing biometric verification system can reduce medical errors. Biometrics help minimize insurance fraud and theft of controlled inventories such as pharmaceuticals, and they can secure against the unauthorized use of expensive medical equipment.

In addition to controlling access, multispectral biometrics play a role in facilitating operational efficiency in healthcare. Most security solutions are, by their nature, designed to block rather than facilitate transactions. However, carefully designed biometric systems can streamline operations by providing quick and easy access to authorized users. Further, biometric systems can enforce and document compliance with hospital policies and procedures, enhancing patient and staff safety.

But biometrics is only viable if the technology and solution can be made to work reliably for every user, every time. Today, the cutting-edge biometric technology multispectral fingerprint, which has the unique ability to “see” beneath the surface layer of skin, is having a dramatic impact on user performance and real-world experience in the healthcare industry. Not only can multispectral fingerprint handle the environmental factors that can affect fingerprints, but it is also the only technology on the market today that can extract a fingerprint image from a gloved hand. It’s a solution that is now showing up in healthcare facilities worldwide.

Bill Spence is the vice president of Transaction Systems for Lumidigm, based in Albuquerque, N.M.