Together, technology and the human eye could help curb patient identification
errors. A California medical center is testing a new system that uses
eye-scanning technology to help prevent patient mix-ups.
Patient Identification Errors
Even though patient information is often tracked using electronic records,
and patients are required to wear wristbands while admitted in the hospital,
patient identification errors are more common than many would expect.
Traditional patient identification data, such as names, Social Security
Numbers, and addresses can be easily mistyped and
lead to preventable medical errors.
Mix-ups can have serious consequences. A
2016 ECRI report examined 7,613 wrong-patient events occurring from January 2013 to July 2015 that were submitted by 181 healthcare
organizations. Of the 7,613 wrong-patient events studied, approximately
9% resulted in temporary or permanent harm or even death. Wrong-patient
mistakes include confusing a patient who has a do-not-resuscitate order
with another who wants life-saving measures, and performing surgery on
a patient based on the medical history of another patient.
Using Biometric Data to Reduce Patient Misidentification
To reduce the risk of patient misidentification, many healthcare facilities
are exploring the use of biometric data. In California, the Community
Regional Medical Center in Fresno is using eye-scanning technology to
verify patient identities. Specifically, the medical center is adding
each patient’s “eyeprint,” which is as unique as a fingerprint,
to their medical records. As
reported by the
Fresno Bee, patients at the Community Regional Medical Center will no longer provide
their driver’s license or insurance card when checking in for an
appointment. Instead, the facility will rely on iris recognition captured
in a high-resolution facial photo. Each time a patient registers for an
appointment, another photo will be taken to compare to the one on file.
The use of biometric identifiers is a promising way to use technology to
reduce patient identification errors and prevent identity fraud. However,
critics have raised patient privacy concerns. One of the primary risks
is that hackers could access and exploit the sensitive data. Another cybersecurity
concern is that a ransomware attack or similar threat could render the
entire system inoperable, much like what occurred in Europe in the wake
of the recent Wannacry attack.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a medical error,
don’t hesitate to contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.