Hospital Scans Patient Hands to Pull Medical Info

By Amanda Plasencia
|  Tuesday, Jul 26, 2011  |  Updated 3:16 PM EDT
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Hospital Scans Patient Hands to Pull Medical Info

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Make sure to wash your hands the next time you go visit the doctor, because you may need your palms to check in for your next appointment.

The NYU Medical Center is getting rid of the old clipboard and using new palm scanners to pull up patients' medical information when they visit the doctor. It is the first hospital in the city to use the technology.

The scanner is a product called PatientSecure, a biometric identification system that uses infrared light to read the distinct vein pattern of a patient to pull up their electronic medical records.

“Vein patterns are 100 times more unique than fingerprints,” said Dr. Bernard A. Birnbaum, senior vice president, vice dean and chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone, in a statement.

Because vein patterns are so unique, the new technology reduces the chance of misidentification and medical identity fraud.

Once they sign up and fill out the initial paperwork, patients can just place their palms on a little black box and have all their electronic medical records show up immediately.There is no need to pull out the driver's license or insurance card from your wallet. 

"This technology makes you feel like a VIP. You just put your palm on the scanner and you’re done registering at your doctor’s office, no clipboard, no hassle of paperwork to check in, plus, it’s absolutely secure,” said Michael Baldwin, 55, a patient at NYU Langone.

The scanner can also register patients who don’t arrive with identification or may be unconscious or unable to communicate. It automatically alerts the doctors about the patient's medical records, including their medical history, allergies and medications.

While the new scanners can be more efficient, not everybody is ready to raise their hands in delight.

Chris Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the Daily News: "Anytime you surrender private information like DNA, fingerprints, iris scans or palm prints, you need to understand that the information can be stored in a database, distributed to the world and used in ways you never intended. People should insist on strict privacy protections before giving up this type of information to anyone."

More than 25,000 patients have already been scanned into the system since NYU Medical Center started the registration in June.

There is no cost to participate in the program and registration is now available for inpatients at Tisch Hospital, the Hospital for Joint Diseases and the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.

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