It’s all about patient security, so says Mike Sauk, chief information officer for UW Hospital and Clinics. The new palm-vein scanning system quickly and easily identifies patients through each person’s unique blood-flow pattern in the palm of their hand. It matches that patient to his electronic health record.
(PHOTOS: Courtesy of UW Health)
Especially beneficial, Sauk says, to unconscious individuals. “We don’t need you to be conscious; we don’t need you to speak. If we can get your palm, we can identify who you are which can be critical in taking care of a trauma or an emergency room patient because of allergies you might have or drug interactions.”
UW Health calls the system SAFE, an acronym for Secure, Accurate, Fast and Efficient. UW is the first health system in Wisconsin to use the device; in fact, they are the first in the Midwest. (FAQ)
Sauk says with 2.5 million unique patients in their electronic medical record system, there are many duplicate names. “Believe it or not there are people with names that we have 150 of them … same names … some people with the same birth dates.” Palm-vein scanning is so precise, Sauk says, it can even distinguish between identical twins.
Considering the prevalence of insurance fraud, this form of identification is a step in the right direction. Sauk says it’s not mandatory, but it does offer peace of mind, and it’s more accurate than fingerprints and personal ID numbers. Sauk says UW Health invested about $70,000 for 200 of the scanners.
While very new, Sauk says the response has been “excellent.” UW Health has enrolled more than 11,300 patients since introducing the system in mid-October.