Hospitals are in the process of transforming themselves by digitizing patient records to provide quick, safe, enhanced and cost-effective care. However this process is not without its share of problems. Passwords that are used to protect hospital computer systems from unauthorized users are not completely secure and may just provide a false sense of security. There is also a possibility of patient health records getting mixed up, misplaced or it may contain incomplete information which might result in wrong medication. Furthermore, one patient’s information could be transferred into another person’s record or records could pass to a wrong person resulting in medical identity fraud.
Data integrity is crucial to maintaining electronic health records as any corruption or errors could literally mean the difference between life and death. Passwords are not the best way to secure critical health records of patients. It is observed that often people forget or share their passwords or even write them down on “post-it” notes. Again some passwords are easily guessed which allows unauthorized access to hospital computer systems. The problem with traditional authentication mechanisms such as passwords, smart cards or personal identification numbers is that they can be easily shared or stolen. This jeopardizes patient confidentiality and health records leading to security breaches.
A biometric fingerprint system can effectively help to reduce these problems as it authorizes or identifies individuals based on their unique biometric characteristic. Fingerprints are inherent to individuals and thus it is undeniably the most accurate and authentic way for verifying individual identity.
Why are passwords not sufficient to protect critical health information?
According to a report by Gartner Group, 40% of all help-desk calls are related to forgotten passwords. Companies are required to spend $150 per user on an average to maintain the security of passwords each year and almost 15% of annual IT budget is spent on information security. This indicates the huge costs associated with maintaining passwords. In spite of all this, the hospital’s network and patient health records can easily be compromised if authorised users share their password or it gets stolen. This is the inherent risk with password related systems.
True accountability is lost in a password based system as it can be compromised or traded. For example, a physician prescribing narcotics using a password based system can be watched. The password can be written down and then duplicated with little difficulty by unscrupulous individuals.
Current solution to tackle password related problems includes having users create strong passwords. However, when access to each application is controlled by a separate password it makes memorization necessary. Sometimes users might keep the same password to avoid memorizing. Others remain logged into the system to avoid repeatedly entering the password. Thus we see that the current solutions to handling passwords only further aggravate the problem. Biometrics, on the other hand, is a very efficient mechanism as a simple swipe of a finger on a laptop or other device can authenticate the user and is a better substitute for several passwords.
Why is fingerprint biometrics needed in hospitals today?
There is a pressing need to find a highly accurate and reliable method to secure critical healthcare information and prevent any errors which could mean the difference between life and death. Fingerprints can be used to uniquely identify individuals from an entire population. It is the most accurate form of identification and even twins have different sets of fingerprints. The use of fingerprint biometrics in hospitals will increase privacy and security as well as improve patient safety by ensuring accurate identification.
Fingerprint biometrics helps hospitals to ensure compliance to government regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other such laws worldwide that mandate protection of patient privacy. With fingerprint authentication, only those who are authorised can access patient data. Every time a patient record is accessed, a concrete audit trail is created that helps to ensure compliance and ensures true accountability. Thus patients and healthcare professionals can feel very secure and confident about the privacy of their healthcare data with fingerprint technology.
Government regulations mandate the tracking of electronic records each time a physician or healthcare professional accesses a patient’s record. Such tracking is extremely important to maintain confidentiality of patient data and avoid any cases of medical fraud. Implementing fingerprint authentication makes it extremely convenient for medical personnel to access patient data with a simple fingerprint swipe. It ensures that the person accessing the record is definitely who they claim to be and also have the right to see the patient’s record. Any mismatch can be flagged instantly and notified to the appropriate authorities that some intruder is trying to access the secure medical records.
How are fingerprint readers implemented in hospitals?
Hospitals and healthcare facilities understand the challenges to efficient healthcare in today’s world. Fingerprint solutions are implemented to secure access to everything – hospital networks systems and computers, restricted areas within the hospital, data, applications and cloud-based services. Fingerprint readers are used for many activities within a hospital facility that include registration of new patients, managing visitors, accurate dispensing of medicines, processing payments for medical claims, protecting the privacy of patient information and secure access to the premises.
Medical cabinets that are used in hospitals are now accessed using fingerprint readers. The advantage of this system is that it helps to efficiently manage both medical supplies and medications. A simple fingerprint scan allows those in immediate need of drugs and medications to conveniently, securely and efficiently identify themselves and gain access. This approach has been deployed in a number of major US hospitals are being used by millions of nurses every day.
Fingerprint readers validate that the patient is indeed eligible to receive care. It prevents the sharing of healthcare ID cards among friends and family members. It eliminates the possibility of an impostor using an individual’s stolen card to commit medical identity fraud. The patient has to be physically present and verify himself with fingerprint to be eligible to receive medical care. The medical administrators can know with certainty that the individuals receiving the healthcare services are indeed the intended recipients. Only biometrics can prove with certainty that the patient is actually who they claim to be.
Physicians and nurses maintain compliance as every access to patient record gets recorded automatically with fingerprint identification systems. A simple touch and go approach helps to maintain smooth workflow in hospitals and immediate access to records in events of emergency. A personalized and highly secured access to patient records at a shared user workstation can be provided with fingerprint identification. This helps to create administrative relief and cost efficiency for hospitals.
What are the advantages of fingerprint readers in hospitals?
Fingerprint readers eliminate the unauthorized sharing or writing down of passwords in unsecured locations that can compromise the confidential information of patients. Some medical workstations will automatically timeout that forces the medical personnel to log-in repeatedly throughout their shift. This creates inconvenience and wasted time for medical personnel. A fingerprint reader enables the nurses and other medical personnel to instantly log-in with a fingerprint touch. This saves a lot of time and creates administrative efficiency.
A fingerprint reader eliminates the security badges that were previously being used to access medicine cabinets. These badges could be lost or unauthorized people could gain access. Fingerprint authentication guarantees the physical safety of new-borns as well as prevents theft of narcotics. Only authorized nurses can access the facility by positively identifying themselves and hence fingerprints are extremely secure as compared to badges.
How can fingerprint biometrics create better security for hospital systems?
Fingerprint identification systems rely on a user’s physical characteristic for identity verification. It is based on something that is inherent to the user as compared to something that the user knows or something that the user possesses. This is what makes biometric identification systems very robust and reliable.
A fingerprint identification system is superior to passwords or card-based systems in two distinct ways. Unlike passwords or smart cards, fingerprints cannot be forgotten or lost. Fingerprint identification systems are based on unique and inherent characteristic of individuals which makes it extremely difficult to steal, copy or replicate an individual’s fingerprint.
Fingerprint systems have a two-fold advantage as compared to smart cards. In case of fingerprints, the authentication can be undeniably tied to the actual user. A smart card or token that the user possesses is not sufficient to prove that the user presenting the token is actually the authorised user. Second, it frees the user from the burden of remembering to carry their smart cards or tokens. Fingerprints are always on the user irrespective of wherever they go.
The strength of fingerprint identification system lies in the fact it has already been successfully implemented in various sectors such as law enforcement and government agencies. It is a proven technology with a high level of accuracy and flexibility that can be used for securing physical as well as logical access within a hospital facility. Fingerprint systems are getting widely accepted by hospitals because of its reliability, convenience and the ability to be deployed in a wide range of environments.
In this demo video, we saw how easy and fast it is to add fingerprint recognition into an existing application using Touch N Go biometric identification platform by Bayometric.
Touch N Go identity platform rapidly enables developers to integrate fingerprint registration, fingerprint matching, de-duplication and fingerprint quality check functionalities. With just 3 method calls, we can add fingerprint recognition in our application.