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When patients at Catholic Health System's Sisters Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y., register for care such as radiology tests, they place their index fingers on an ultrasonic reading device. The image is matched in a database to a previously recorded fingerprint and with other identification, including picture ID, insurance card, and digitized signature.
Today, it's primarily used to make sure a patient isn't using someone else's insurance coverage. "I don't like to say it, but there's a lot of fraud in insurance, and this helps reduce that," says Jeffrey Baughan, VP of IT at Catholic Health. In the future, as the health-care provider deploys an electronic-medical-record system, Baughan expects the fingerprint system to be used for patient safety, such as making sure a patient is receiving the correct drug.
The system Catholic Health is using, from Ultra-Scan Corp., is different than some biometric fingerprint systems because it uses sound waves to read fingerprints, rather than optical technology. The ultrasound helps improve accuracy by "seeing through" skin creams, newsprint, or plain-old dirt on the fingertip, contends John Schneider, president, chief technology officer and founder of Ultra-Scan. The system can be deployed for less $1 million, Schneider says, because it can be integrating to link to existing, disparate databases.
Ultra-Scan has only recently started marketing to the health-care industry, which it sees as a likely market because of the cost and risk associated with misidentifying patients. Catholic Health System only has the system at its Buffalo hospital, but it's looking to roll it out to other facilities in its five-hospital network in western New York state.