California medical center checks ‘eyeprints’ to prevent medical record mix-ups

Blue eye
A Fresno health system is looking into patients' eyes to reduce identification errors.

A Fresno, California, medical center is rolling out some new-age technology to identify patients as they come in the door and prevent medical record confusion.

Patient matching is making a push into the national spotlight recently, with more organizations calling for Congress to consider a national patient identifier, which some say would prevent patient identification errors that are commonplace throughout the industry. In the past, the Department of Health and Human Services has been barred from using funds to create a national patient identifier.

RELATED: Center for Data Innovation wants HHS to implement universal patient identifiers

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) recently launched a patient matching challenge earlier this month, and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) narrowed down its National Patient ID Challenge to four finalists.

In the meantime, Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno is using eye-scanning technology to add each patient’s “eyeprint” to their medical record, according to the Fresno Bee.

The hospital started piloting the program three months ago using technology manufactured by RightPatient that uses the iris recognition software as a unique identifier. In the past, hospitals have used fingerprint scanning technology as a similar solution.

Judi Binderman, chief medical informatics officer at Community Medical Centers, told the newspaper that the system spends a lot of time correcting patient records and moving information from one chart to another, so it makes sense to move away from traditional forms of verifications.

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But not everyone feels the same enthusiasm for biometrics, which are often highlighted as a solution for patient identification issues. Privacy experts have frequently raised concerns about the implications of hackers accessing biometric data that can’t be reissued like paper identification.