Healthcare Directors Sound off on Biometrics and HIPAA Usage

Opposing viewpoints give insight into challenges, benefits of using this new technology in healthcare environment

"Biometrics technology, which some provider organizations view as an attractive way to meet HIPAA security rule user authentication requirements, is ready for widescale adoption in the health care industry. Do you agree or disagree?"


Evelyn Elliott, Director of Pharmacy, Kern Medical Center, Bakersfield, Calif. -- "We have been using fingerprint recognition to access our automated medication dispensing devices for more than two years now. It is a very stable platform and has performed very well. It is one of the foundations of our security plan for medications. Users cannot argue that someone 'stole' their password."

Kathy Runyon, Senior Management Information Systems Analyst, Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital Systems, San Jose, Calif. -- "Biometrics products have become more cost-effective in the last few years and are a good method for authentication and access, especially for portable devices. Laptop computers now are in common use in health care and contain protected health information. However, laptops are easily lost or stolen and thus must have additional safeguards."

Gregg Martin, CIO, Arnot Ogden Medical Center, Elmira, N.Y. -- "The reasons why most in this poll feel that biometrics is not ready for prime-time use in health care likely is more a reflection of cost and cultural issues than technological ones."

Wayne Singer, Senior Vice President, eMedicalFiles Inc., Goose Creek, S.C. -- "The biometrics process of fingerprints is more than ready for prime time. But I feel people are confused for two reasons. We can use fingerprints to allow people to prove who they are, a process not to be confused with the crime scene method of finding out who owns the prints. Also, we can keep the information with us and do one-to-one matches, as opposed to the one-to-many databases approach, thus avoiding the 'Big Brother' concern. Other forms of biometrics are not ready for mass deployment, but finger imaging is ready."

Vineta Bhalla, M.D., Singapore -- "Biometrics, applied in an effective way, can do what other privacy protection technologies were limited in doing, especially since limiting factors such as public/private keys, personal identification numbers and personal identification chips will not be an issue for authentication. Moreover, the consent issue also will be greatly resolved as long as there is a witness to biometrics authentication."

Alfredo Puga, Regional Technician, TRISUN Healthcare, San Antonio -- "I believe the technology is ready, but users are not. Education and support from upper management is the key ingredient, and don't forget follow-up. If we can educate our staff on the benefits the technology can provide, it makes it much easier to implement. "


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