Hospitals, doctors take 'palm prints' to ID patients

June 16, 2011 2:50:45 PM PDT
Palms have taken on a new meaning at some doctors' offices and hospitals. More unique than fingerprints, palm readings are helping keep patients straight and safe.

It's palm reading, indeed, but not the fortune teller kind. More than 8,000 patients at the NYU Langone Medical Center have already had their palms read as part of their medical visits. The goal is to have every single patient at the hospital and in their doctor's waiting room be "palmed." It's one of the way technology is coming into the medical environment.

When patient Michael Baldwin visits his doctor at the medical center, check in is a breeze. All he needs is his palm, as he's one of the first patients to take part in the new program. It is called Patient Secure, and it uses palms to identify patients and their records.

Palm prints, it turns out, are more than 100 times more unique than fingerprints, so that is the basis of the new security system.

"What it does, through your veins in your palm is blood flow," Dr. Andrew Brotman said. "And it actually monitors the blood flow. And everybody's got a unique blood flow and a unique vasculature. That's how it works."

Patients at doctors' offices are now being scanned. They're also being scanned when they're admitted into the hospital.

One problem scanning resolves is the issue of patient identification. At the medical center alone, two or more patients share the first and last name more than 125,000 times.

"If you have the wrong person, there could be significant safety issues," Dr. Brotman said. "This allows one to come in and immediately have their vasculature scan on their palm, and you get the right person without creating what we call a duplicate medical record."

The federal government is requiring electronic adaption of patient records. This is one beginning.

The goal is to scan every single one of the million patients seen at the medical center yearly.

If an unconscious patient is brought in by ambulance, a mere scan of their palm could give doctors immediate information.