With the mobile biometrics revolution now having been underway for about half a decade, it’s high time that a similar revolution should come to healthcare. And it is coming: Biometric technologies are starting to have a major impact on a range of areas in this sector, from EPCS to patient identification and even medical diagnosis.
A number of factors are driving this kind of innovation. For one thing, many of the consumer-facing biometric technologies that have been refined in the mobile and adjacent sectors over the last few years can actually translate pretty easily into healthcare applications. Digitization is another important factor, with hospitals looking for new, more secure technologies to protect sensitive patient data. And demographic shifts bringing a huge influx of people into the healthcare system are driving up demand for solutions that can streamline medical processes and reduce costs.
For all of these needs, contemporary biometric technologies offer compelling advantages, and we’ve been assessing a range of examples over the past month at FindBiometrics. So with Healthcare Biometrics Month now coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back on some of the more salient trends and topics:
We kicked things off with a Primer, which highlighted the most important trends in healthcare biometrics. The Electronic Prescription of Controlled Substances, for example, offers a ripe opportunity to take advantage of biometric authentication: By leveraging biometric identification to confirm that real doctors are writing up prescriptions, and to ensure that it’s actually the intended patient accessing a given medication, such technologies can help to keep drugs out of the wrong hands and can even make a difference in the fight against America’s ongoing opioid epidemic.
Likewise, biometric authentication can help to keep patient data safe. The latter is increasingly being stored in the form of digital records that can theoretically be vulnerable to hack attacks; but by requiring healthcare practitioners to scan their biometrics in order to gain access, that can help to keep the wrong people out. And this concept can even be extended to emerging blockchain-based medical platforms, in which sensitive data can only be accessed and shared by biometrically authorized users.
Biometric Patient ID
Our Primer couldn’t go without mentioning one of the other critical areas in which biometric technology is starting make a huge impact in healthcare: patient identification. And we went on to take a deep dive into this important area with our next feature, which laid out the high stakes involved in patient identification – an area in which errors can do real physical harm – and demonstrated how healthcare providers and IT platforms are now actively embracing biometric technologies to make sure that each patient is correctly identified at each visit to a given facility, even in cases where patients aren’t able to identify themselves.
These applications of biometric technologies offer obvious benefits in terms of patient outcomes, but they also bring opportunities to improve efficiency by reducing time-consuming paperwork and other administrative tasks. It’s no wonder that biometric patient ID is starting to emerge as an area of keen interest for a healthcare industry that remains intent on providing quality care while also seeking to manage increasing burdens on resources.
Our next feature went to the cutting edge of healthcare biometrics, offering a glimpse at how AI-driven biometric technologies can be used for medical diagnoses. We’re nowhere close to replacing doctors with robots or algorithms, but advances in the field of AI, and machine learning technology in particular, have led to biometric ‘computer vision’ systems that can learn to look for signs of illness in physiological traits such as retinal patterns and even aspects of patients’ voices and how they talk.
At the same time, the actual production of medical records in terms of transcribing patient stories and histories is being automated by voice and speech recognition technologies. That, in turn, points to a future in which a substantial amount of clinical work, including diagnosis to some extent, can be done in the background during patient-doctor visits by biometric AI algorithms integrated into these kinds of clinical dictation systems.
Even at the present state of the art, however, sophisticated biometric technologies are now available and ready to address a growing market. And many of those discussed above were on full display at this year’s HIMSS conference. Running from February 11th to 15th in Orlando, HIMSS saw a wide range of biometric technologies showcased in the form of both software and hardware platforms, wearable solutions, and a sophisticated new clinical documentation system that’s currently in a prototype phase – all of which were outlined in one of our Brief listicles at HIMSS’s conclusion, while HID Global elaborated on the advantages of mobile biometrics in the hospital with a video on the topic.
The event naturally also featured multiple industry leaders on hand who were able to discuss their biometric healthcare technologies with FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill live on the show floor. These included Veratad CEO John E. Ahrens, BioConnect CEO Rob Douglas, and Nuance Communications VP Kenneth Harper.
We couldn’t just leave Ahrens’ and Douglas’ expertise in Orlando, however. The two chief executives are going to be among a number of industry experts slated to participate in the latest entry in FindBiometrics’ renowned webinar series, “The Identity Revolution Comes to Healthcare“. Rounding out the panel will be Crossmatch’s Senior Sales Executive, Brett Lannoo; and Rod Piechowski, the Senior Director of HIMSS Health Information Systems. The four experts will discuss a range of topics including the market drivers of healthcare biometrics, technological advancements, and challenges facing the industry, with FindBiometrics Managing Editor Peter Counter to moderate the talk.
The webinar starts at 11am EST on March 6th, with registration open now. It will offer a comprehensive conclusion to Healthcare Biometrics Month, but should also underscore that the broader healthcare biometrics discussion is just getting started.
February 28, 2019 – by Alex Perala