Healthcare professionals have a lot to worry about these days. They need to balance both rising healthcare costs and rising technology costs. The challenge is not only to secure the funding for new technology, but also to weigh the potential benefits of new and emerging technology against the costs. Serious consideration must be given to the consequences of technology adoption for legacy systems, life-cycle costs, and long-term technology evolution.

The Smart Card Revolution

Over the past few years, the use of smart cards for patients in the healthcare sector has grown significantly worldwide. Current programs focus on patient identification, which includes streamlining admissions, eliminating duplicate records, and managing payments.

Healthcare organizations are implementing health-related smart cards, which support a wide variety of features and applications. The impact of health smart cards for patients can be seen in several ways. These smart cards:

  • Improve the security and privacy of patient information
  • Provide the facility with a secure carrier for portable medical records
  • Reduce healthcare fraud
  • Support new processes associated with portable medical records
  • Provide secure access to emergency medical information
  • Lead providers straight to the appropriate record when communication is difficult
  • Enable compliance with government initiatives and mandates
  • Provide a platform upon which other healthcare applications can be implemented as needed

Smart Cards for Patients See Worldwide Implementation

Various countries with national healthcare programs have deployed smart card systems. The largest is the German solution, which deployed over 80,000,000 smart cards for patients in Germany and Austria. German health smart cards are used to manage billing between various health insurance companies for all services received by the public. Patients also actively use healthcare smart cards in France, Italy, Australia, and Taiwan. Canada also plans to implement a smart card system for their national healthcare system soon.

While it isn’t as widespread, the ubiquitous nature of smart cards is evident in the US, as well. In Wyoming, the Health Passport Card can be used in grocery stores to check how pregnant and breast-feeding women spend their allowance for nutritional supplements (on food rather than on diapers, for example).

Added Security with Biometrics

For patient identification, combining smart cards with a second layer of patient biometric authentication increases the value even more. That layer can include a unique patient characteristic, like a photographic image of the user or biometric information such as digitized iris, fingerprints, or palm vein scans. The combination of biometrics and smart card technology prevents healthcare fraud by requiring absolute identification at each healthcare encounter. It adds a trackable element by providing a time stamp record patient check-ins, as well. Care providers can later verify that a patient was present and received care at a certain time, which eliminates the possibility of identity theft and vastly reduces the chances of fraudulent billing.

Smart cards for patients are portable, secure, and easy for patients to use. Healthcare providers and facilities also see benefits from smart card implementation, such as closer patient alignments, higher patient satisfaction levels, and increased revenue through fraud reduction and patient retention.

Evidence of Smart Card Benefits

While the reliability of smart card technology has been proven through decades of use in other industries, it is now making its mark on healthcare. New processes that combine data storage, network security, and technological infrastructure can make managing sensitive health information between facilities difficult. This is one of the biggest benefits smart card adoption can bring to U.S. healthcare.

A recent joint study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) examined how smart cards can positively affect beneficiaries and providers for Medicare. The primary focus was on the replacement of existing paper identification cards.

The report confirms that using electronically readable cards in Medicare would help the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) meet a variety of objectives. “Three key uses include authenticating beneficiary and provider presence at the point of care, electronically exchanging beneficiary medical information, and electronically conveying beneficiary identity and insurance information to providers,” states GAO.

Smart cards for patients are a valuable medical technology for patient identification. Despite the findings in the GAO study and a 2009 report by the Smart Card Alliance citing the benefits of smart card implementation, many hospitals across the nation have been slow to embrace the technology.

Smart cards linked with biometrics provide security and cost savings across the healthcare environment, but sometimes seeing is believing. To learn more about Privasent’s solution combining biometric security and smart cards for patients, contact us today.