When patients arrive for an appointment at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, a staff member snaps a quick photo.
But this isnt like photo for a drivers license or passport. The focus is on the eyes.
Like something out of a science fiction movie, a new system at Presbyterian links patients to their medical records by scanning their eyes. The system, which the hospital introduced last month, is designed to combat identity mix-ups and theft.
Someone can steal a drivers license or a social security number, said Veronica Rose, a registrar at Presbyterian, but they cant get your eyes.
Hospitals across the country are turning to electronic means of recording medical information and verifying patient identity.
Its not uncommon for patients with similar names and birth dates arriving at the same hospital to have their medical records confused.
Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings in April, hospitals struggled to identify patients whod arrived unconscious and without any identifying information.
And in the most dubious situations, a lost or stolen drivers license might be used to receive medical care while the victim foots the bill.
The collection of biometric data a finger or palm print, or face or voice recognition used for identification has been used for years in law enforcement, banks, schools and clubs.
One of the key benefits is that theres nothing for patients to remember to bring, such as a drivers license or insurance card.
But for some, living in the future means discomfort about handing over their privacy. Novant addresses such concerns in letting patients opt out.
Hillary Marsee, 28, of Charlotte is not one of those worried patients. She likes the idea of having all of her medical information collected in one place and linked to the iris of her eye.
Theres a lot of paperwork and ways that things can go wrong in the hospital. Having this all linked together tidies things up, said Marsee, one of the approximately 900 patients who have been scanned so far. But if people think its scary, they dont have to do it.
The tech-savvy aspect of the iris scanner appealed to Marsee and her husband Matt, 28. Its also less messy than a fingerprint, he added.
Before choosing an iris scanner, Novant considered a similar system that scans the unique vein pattern found on the palm of a patients hand, a system that Carolinas HealthCare System has used since 2007.
Novant preferred an eye scanner because it doesnt require patients to provide a second piece of information, such as a date of birth, once theyre in the system, said Tate Batson, assistant director of on-site patient access for Novants Greater Charlotte market.
Unlike the palm scanner, patients also dont have to come into contact with any equipment with the iris scanner, Batson said.
For Novant, the new technology represents a $1.1 million investment toward patient safety and security, Batson said. Novant Health will have 150 iris scanning cameras in its hospitals in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.
Novant expects to have the iris scanning devices in all its Charlotte-area hospitals by the end of August.
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