Pew to develop biometric patient record matching system

Pew Charitable Trusts announced Feb. 18 it is partnering with nonprofit research institute RTI International to study the use of biometric technology to improve patient medical record matching.

The institutions will work together to develop a roadmap to support the use of biometric-enhanced patient matching in healthcare. Currently, patient's medical records are matched based on demographic data including names, addresses and date of birth. This information determines whether a record from one healthcare facility references the same patient as a record from an outside organization. Biometrics could offer an additional, and more precise, data point to help improve patient record matches.

"Unlike unique numbers or ID cards, a patient can't forget or lose track of his or her fingerprints, and a facial scan doesn't rely on a patient being responsive when wheeled into the emergency department," Pew wrote in the article.

Biometrics is a practice that analyzes individually distinguishable characteristics, such as fingerprints, and uses them as a form of identification.

While the process may help improve patient record matching, Pew did reference privacy and technical issues associated with the technology. On the privacy front, biometrics has the potential to be used to identify individuals without their awareness or consent through technology like facial scans; and in terms of technology, the industry must determine how to exchange and compare data across health systems that use different companies' scanners, according to the report. 

Pew and RTI will conduct the research this year and in 2021. The organizations will address privacy and technical concerns associated with the use of biometrics as well as what support will be needed to implement the framework in facilities and smartphones or tablets.

More articles on EHRs:
Vanderbilt develops EHR data-mining tool to identify disease associations
Indian Health Service to modernize 50-year-old clinical information system
New Jersey health system to implement Cerner EHR

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