Iris Scanners Used to Identify Patients

By ThinkReliability Staff

The Bronx, New York medical clinic had a potential problem.  It serves a large population (over 37,000 patients) that sometimes speaks limited English and has little identification.  Of the 37,000 patients served, the clinic had a high number of repeated names, including 103 Jose Rodriguezes.  The clinic was concerned that these issues would lead to potential safety issues if a patient was mistaken for another patient with the same or a similar name.

To address these concerns, the clinic has installed iris scanners to identify the patients.  The scanner pulls up a patient’s electronic medical records with an extremely low error rate.  An additional benefit is that an iris scanner does not require the patient to physically touch it, so it is much less likely to spread germs than a fingerprint or palm scanner.

The clinic has been extremely pleased with the iris scanner, noting that it has also helped fight benefits fraud and won the clinic recognition from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.   The downside is that the system is expensive.  (The Bronx clinic purchased their scanner with a grant from the New York Department of Health.)  However, considering the high prevalence and cost of medical errors, it seems to be a worthwhile expense.