Harris County Hospital District Puts Patient Safety in the Palm of Your Hand

HOUSTON (April 5, 2011) – The Harris County Hospital District is the first healthcare system in Houston to use a new biometric palm scanner to launch a new patient identification system. The palm-based scanner uses infrared technology to map a patient’s network of veins. Vein-pattern identification is unique to each individual and does not change over one’s lifetime, and is said to be about 100 times more accurate than fingerprints.

After a patient’s palm is scanned, the new PatientSecure system generates a unique number that corresponds to the patient’s hospital district personal electronic medical record. The number, only useful to the Harris County Hospital District, quickly and securely helps staff ensure that the right person will receive the right care and treatment.

“This is another safeguard to ensure that we are providing the proper care to the correct person and that the person receiving the care is the correct person,” says Dr. Robert Trenschel, senior vice president and administrator, Ambulatory Care Services, Harris County Hospital District.

To illustrate the need to positively identify patients and ensure that each has their corresponding electronic medical records, consider these facts:

• Number of patients in Harris County Hospital District’s database: 3,428,925

• Number of times when two or more patients share the same last and first names: 249,213

• Number of times when five or more patients share the same last and first names: 76,354

• Number of times when two or more patients share the same last and first names, and date of birth: 69,807

• Number of patients named Maria Garcia: 2,488

• Number of Maria Garcia’s sharing the same date of birth: 231

PatientSecure is just one example of the ways the Harris County Hospital District is using cutting-edge technology to deliver improved service to its patients. It is the ultimate assurance of patient safety, and allows for accurate patient record retrieval, ensuring that patients receive the care that is best for their unique needs.

The new system also helps protect patient information and taxpayer dollars by reducing the possibility of medical identity theft. And, PatientSecure makes it quicker and easier for patients to check in at the hospital district’s hospitals, health centers and clinics throughout the county.

An initial roll-out of the system was launched April 4 at four locations — Acres Home Health Center, El Franco Lee Health Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital.  

“This new technology helps protect patient information and taxpayer dollars,” says Tim Tindle, executive vice president and chief information officer, Harris County Hospital District. “It reduces the possibility of medical identity theft and helps ensure that patients are appropriately billed for the care they receive.”

No other agency or entity, such as law enforcement or immigration, can use the biometric information gathered by the Harris County Hospital District’s system. Additionally, the hospital district’s biometric information is not compatible with other healthcare institutions or healthcare systems.

Following the successful initial phase, a full roll-out of the biometric identification system will begin later this year across all of the Harris County Hospital District’s patient care locations.



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