Biometrics: Helping Nurses Avoid Errors

It is a common thing wherein we have a friend with the same name with the same exact spelling. In addition, it is not too farfetched that someone around the block shares our family name. Now combine that, turn those people with the same names into patients, and one of them is mentally ill. You are the nurse, you have to provide medication X to a certain John Doe Smith. The only problem, there are three John Doe Smiths!

Patient identification can become a nightmare especially when the hospital becomes a busy place from a catastrophe. But that should not be a reason to sacrifice quality care. That should not be a reason to administer what supposedly is the right medication, to the wrong person.

Helping Nurses Avoid ErrorsWell the engineers at Fujitsu have created a revolutionary identification method through vein matching. Much like our fingerprints, the patterns of the veins on our palms are unique from person to person, in fact a hundred times more unique than fingerprints. Fujitsu has created a system, called PatientSecure that will identify the patient using this pattern. The scanner shoots a beam of infrared light, like a fingerprint scanner, onto your palm to identify the correct John Doe Smith.

After scanning the patient’s palm, PatientSecure feeds the vein pattern to the central computer of the hospital and pulls up the corresponding patient records. Obviously, if this John Doe Smith has not been prescribed with medication X, then he is definitely the wrong person.

This definitely helps the healthcare team a lot. Now, nurses need not figure out which chart belongs to a particular patient. They also need not worry that they are giving the wrong medication to the wrong person. It definitely saves a lot of time and hassle in arguing with the mentally ill one in solving the mystery of the correct John Doe Smith. Moreover, PatientSecure has added incentives, the lack of an effective method to duplicate one’s vein pattern and patient privacy. With the vein pattern being used to identify such patients, the incorrect record need not be read.

Though currently used by the FBI and the CIA, vein matching is still not universally adopted. The gold standard for identification is still fingerprinting. Yet with technology on our side, it will only be a matter of time before fingerprints become a thing of the past as hospitals around the world are slowly adopting this revolutionary technology with the NYU Langone Medical Center leading the pack.

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