Medical Idenity Security at the Tip of Your Finger

The patient’s right index finger is scanned by the SafeChx system. When the light under the finger flashes red, the fingerprint has been converted to a digital code and linked to the patient’s hospital medical records.

Darlene Kirkbride, a patient registration representative at Union Hospital, demonstrates the SafeChx scanning process to Linda VanMeter, registration coordinator at UH.

Union Hospital has implemented “SafeChx”, a hardware and software system that uses each person’s unique fingerprint to better protect their medical health information from theft and reduce the risk of medical errors.

“Since we installed the SafeChx system at the Patient Registration windows in July, more than 3,300 patients have used their fingerprint to ensure their medical records are linked to them exclusively,” according to Carey Gardner, Director of Community Relations. “It’s totally voluntary, but once we explain to the patient how simple and effective this process is, more than 99 percent of our patients have scanned their finger and better secured their medical records from fraud or theft.”

Gardner says each registration window in the hospital’s Main Lobby is equipped with a small scanner about the size of a pack of gum. Patients are asked to scan their right index finger several times to obtain their fingerprint and convert it to a digital code. The process takes about 30 seconds. When the patient returns in the future, a single scan of their finger will verify their fingerprint code to the code connected to their medical record.  

Linda VanMeter, Registration Coordinator, says SafeChx has been well received by the thousands of patients registered since it began on July 14. She says only 144 patients, less than one percent, have declined to use the fingerprint scanner. Many of those were under age five which is the minimum age to use the system while others were physically unable to scan their finger.

“Union Hospital is among a growing number of hospitals and physician offices to use the SafeChx system to improve medical record security and our patients say they appreciate this extra precaution we’re taking. If somebody has stolen your medical card and is trying to use it at Union Hospital, the SafeChx system will prevent the attempted fraud,” VanMeter says.

The system also works to eliminate duplicate medical records. “If the patient has multiple medical records at the hospital, and it’s estimated that 10 percent of all medical records are duplicates, SafeChx will alert us to that fact and help us pull all the records together,” VanMeter says. “That will improve patient care and help reduce medical errors.”

Gardner says “SafeChx could help reduce identity theft in the future. “SafeChx estimates that medical identity theft costs Americans more than $40 billion annually. Verifying a patient’s identity by using a fingerprint helps ensure the right person receives the right care.” Gardner adds that SafeChx system was made available at no charge to the hospital.

The SafeChx system is being used only in the Main Lobby registration stations at this time. Gardner says the system will be added to the new Emergency Center patient registration desk when construction is complete and begins serving patients next year.

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