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8/25/2011
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Fingerprint Readers Boost Healthcare Security

Biometrics technology locks up Children's Clinics patient data while cutting down on password-reset requests.

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Children's Clinics for Rehabilitative Services has rolled out DigitalPersona Pro data protection and access security software and U.are.U fingerprint readers to prevent unauthorized access to patient records. The systems will be used by medical staff to access the more than 11,700 patient records stored in its NextGen electronic health record (EHR) system.

DigitalPersona's biometrics technology was chosen by the southern Arizona healthcare provider because it enhances workflow efficiency, strengthens patient data security, and significantly reduces IT helpdesk requests for lost or forgotten passwords, William Mayo, information systems supervisor at Children's Clinics for Rehabilitative Services, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

"In our environment almost all our providers are part-time providers who are only here a couple times a month. We adopted the technology so that [they] would not have to remember another set of usernames and passwords," Mayo said. "It also enabled us to simplify and speed up the login process. Before implementing biometric technology we were relying on using usernames and passwords to access clinic resources."

With more than 25 specialty clinics, primary care facilities, and therapy services, Children's Clinics provides families a wide range of healthcare services. With approximately 40% of the clinic's staff being part-time contract providers who attend to patients a few times per month, many providers had difficulty using the system because they would forget their passwords. According to officials at Children's Clinics, time and resources were often wasted in the effort to recover and reissue passwords which caused frustration to both providers and patients.

"Bringing up an EHR on an accelerated timeline that is mainly being used by part-time providers was a real challenge. Using the fingerprint readers has enabled our providers to quickly access our EHR, removing a potential stumbling block," Mayo said.

He also noted that since the providers move from room to room, each clinical machine has a USB fingerprint reader sitting next to the keyboard and mouse. Doctors place their finger on the reader to log into the PC and again to launch the EHR application.

According to officials at DigitalPersona, the biometric technology addresses compliance with industry regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, by helping health delivery organizations enforce authentication measures to prevent unauthorized access of patients' health records. By using the technology, the staff at Children's Clinics can access a number of applications including Ramsoft PACS, other community EHR systems, and radiology images.

Jim Fulton, DigitalPersona VP of marketing, said in an interview that while DigitalPersona's solution is used at Children's Clinics for medical staff accessing the Clinic's systems internally, some clients use the technology remotely.

"In some other customer deployments our solution is used by doctors whether on premises or remotely [to access patient information] from properly authorized notebooks. Additionally, some of our customers have used our technology for patient-facing applications, such as to check health coverage," Fulton said.

Fulton added that the healthcare sector is DigitalPersona's largest vertical market due to HIPAA and HITECH regulations and the need to secure access to personal health information.

"Fingerprint biometrics reduces the chances that patient records can be viewed by the wrong person by preventing the sharing of authentication credentials. In addition, it helps healthcare organizations be more efficient since they don't have to deal with people losing or forgetting their fingers," Fulton said.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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