Fingerprints have been used for identification of individuals for the last hundred years and that is part of the problem with them. Getting your fingerprints taken is associated with law enforcement and having done something wrong. When you go to the doctor, it is essential that they know “you are the real you,” but if you are at the hospital, you usually feel bad enough already without being treated like a criminal. Fingerprints have the problem of being annoyingly unreliable and easily damaged. During winter months, for example, when the air is particularly dry, many fingerprint scanners have trouble reading fingerprints and numerous scans need to be performed to get an accurate reading.
Palm-vein scanning as a biometric authentication method has also been around a while, but not as long as fingerprinting. The process identifies an individual by taking a picture of the vein pattern in your palm and converting it to a mathematical representation, that is encrypted and stored. Like fingerprints, the vein pattern of your hand is unique to you—and only you—but is not as easily damaged by everyday life. During authentication, the palm-vein image is captured, converted again and compared against the stored template of the user. Vein recognition technology is secure because the authentication data exists inside the body and therefore is very difficult to forge. It is also highly accurate.
In Japan, palm-vein scanners have been used for consumer banking identification for the last 10 years. Additionally, palm-vein scanning products are also being used for door security, login authentication and other applications. Here in the United States, we are beginning to use them in healthcare settings for unique patient identification. Palm-vein scanning easily integrates into the registration process and provides low cost, accurate, secure, and hygienic identification of patients.
Without a national patient identifier, using biometric identification in healthcare is essential to patient safety, proper billing and prevention of medical identity theft. Several types of biometric identification, including fingerprinting, are currently being used in healthcare settings, but palm-vein identification is making a name for itself in the industry and setting itself apart as an accurate, cost effective, and patient friendly means of identification.