E-Handbook:

Biometrics in healthcare further protects clinical data

BACKGROUND IMAGE: Wilm Ihlenfeld/Fotolia

Fingerprints, voice recognition heighten patient data security

The measurement of voice, fingerprints, facial features and other human characteristics -- formally known as biometrics -- is growing in many industries, often as a way to increase multifactor authentication for security purposes. Biometrics in healthcare settings is likewise receiving more attention.

I have concerns about biometric software, although my qualms aren't necessarily with the technology itself, which is innovative. Rather, the practical use of biometrics at times seems flawed.

For example, I suspect that physicians who provide a fingerprint to verify their identities still must complete myriad other steps to authenticate access to EHR systems. The one thing I'd hate to happen is for biometrics to simply create another headache for clinicians who are already fatigued by too much technology.

On the positive side, I'm intrigued by the added layer of security that biometrics in healthcare offers.

A report from earlier this year determined that 37% of health data breaches in 2017 occurred from inappropriate access to records by employees. That category included accidental and malicious actions by workers, according to the report, produced by health IT privacy firm Protenus and DataBreaches.net.

Some of the problems noted in the report stem from caregivers and administrative folks who reveal their passwords to coworkers. Biometrics seems to stick an obstacle in the path of password sharing because you can't -- at least not yet -- lend your voice pattern to a colleague.

Biometrics in healthcare has interesting uses happening right now, such as potential reduction in medical errors and verification of e-prescriptions. At the same time, IT professionals must determine whether the biometric software can integrate successfully with EHRs. Learn more about how healthcare organizations work with biometrics, as well as its pros and cons, in this handbook.

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