Report from HIMSS: Palm vein ID shows promise

February 16, 2006

Attendees at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting had four days to experience a Regional Health Information Organization in action at the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Interoperability Showcase. By improving the state of system integration, the IHE aims to make information readily available wherever it is needed and to remove barriers to optimal patient care.

Attendees at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting had four days to experience a Regional Health Information Organization in action at the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Interoperability Showcase. By improving the state of system integration, the IHE aims to make information readily available wherever it is needed and to remove barriers to optimal patient care.

The IHE initiative presumes that data security can be maintained. It's challenging enough to do this for one institution, much less multiple ones. It is no surprise that security solutions that meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and manage increasingly complex requirements to identify and restrict data access continue to proliferate on the HIMSS exhibition floor.

Password management consumes administrative resources and creates day-to-day headaches. Even with single sign-on systems, people forget user IDs and passwords, a problem that escalates with healthcare institutions' requirements that passwords be changed at frequent intervals. It is no coincidence that vendors of biometrics solutions grow in number each year at HIMSS. Fingerprint and iris identification functionality is increasingly being integrated into healthcare IT products.

PalmSecure, a new biometrics technology introduced at HIMSS this year, may offer promise for the identification of both healthcare providers and patients. Displayed very modestly and easily overlooked in the visual cacophony of the exhibition floor, the palm vein authentication system comes from Fujitsu Computer Products of America.

The system verifies an individual's identity by recognizing the pattern of veins in the palm. Vein patterns are unique in each hand (even with identical twins) and do not change over time. The system works by capturing a vein pattern image while radiating it with near-infrared rays. The deoxidized hemoglobin in the palm veins absorbs these rays, reducing the reflection rate and causing the veins to appear as a black pattern. The entire process of registration takes less than three minutes.

Once a person is registered, authentication is verified by placing the palm over a scanner that in a freestanding mode has the appearance of a very small black box. Verification is near instantaneous. Because it is not necessary to touch the box, the process is hygienic as well as noninvasive. In a germy healthcare environment, this feature is compelling.

Fujitsu claims that its palm vein identification product has a 99.99992% level of accuracy and a false rejection rate of 0.01%.

The system has not yet been implemented in a healthcare institution in the U.S. It has been used for nine months at the University of Tokyo Hospital as a room access security device for the hospital's data center. Several commercial banks in Japan have integrated palm scans for customers into their ATM and debit card systems.

Made commercially available in North America in mid-2005, PalmSecure was awarded a "Best of Innovations" Design and Engineering Award by the International Consumer Electronics Show and the Wall Street Journal "Better Idea" Technology Innovation Award for security in networks. In the fast-paced environment of healthcare IT, it will be interesting to see how rapidly this technology gets adopted.

Related Content:

HIMSS