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Could Your Eyes Help Prevent a Serious Medical Error?

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.