Hospitals can store fingerprint data for medication security, Illinois Supreme Court rules

In a victory for hospitals and medical equipment manufacturer Becton Dickinson, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Nov. 30 that these entities cannot be sued for privacy violations over requiring nurses to scan their fingerprints when accessing medicine for distribution. 

The class-action lawsuit was originally brought to trial by Lucille Mosby, RN, a nurse at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Ill., who asserted that enforcing the use of the fingerprint scanning technology violated nurses' privacy rights. 

Ms. Mosby alleged that Becton Dickinson's fingerprint scanner, which uses and stores biometric information to secure access to dispense drugs, violated several sections of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act "by using the medical station scanning device to collect, use, and/or store her fingerscan data without complying with the Act's notice and consent provisions and by disclosing her purported biometric data to third parties without first obtaining her written consent," according to court documents.

In April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an amicus brief in response to the lawsuit, recommending that the court uphold that the language in the Biometric Information Privacy Act outlines exclusions that apply to data and biometrics collected on patients and employees in healthcare settings. 

Illinois Supreme Court Justice David Overstreet, who wrote the opinion, noted that the court was "not construing the language at issue as a broad, categorical exclusion of biometric identifiers taken from health care workers," adding that the nurses' biometric information "is excluded from coverage under the Act because it is information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under [HIPAA].”

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