Southern California facility consolidates patient flow and data security

March 29, 2007

Imaging centers struggle with data security, misidentification of patients, and long patient wait times. A new paper describes a novel way to address all three concerns with one system that combines wireless and biometric technologies.

Imaging centers struggle with data security, misidentification of patients, and long patient wait times. A new paper describes a novel way to address all three concerns with one system that combines wireless and biometric technologies.

"Based on a workflow study that exposed several deficiencies, we designed a wireless real-time location system and facial biometrics integrated in the RIS," said Dr. Bing Guo of the radiology department at the University of Southern California.

The Location Tracking and Verification System (LTVS) is described in the March issue of Academic Radiology (2007;14(3):270-278).

Guo said the system provides three principal benefits:

  • Wi-Fi tags allow patient flow in the center to be monitored and streamlined to avoid long wait times.

  • Patient misidentification is avoided by scanning the patient's face and data from the tags.

  • A wireless security zone can be created to prevent and audit unauthorized access to patient healthcare data, as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

When patients register at the imaging department at USC's Healthcare Consultation Center II, they are photographed at the registration desk by the Facial Recognition System, then assigned a Wi-Fi tag capable of transmitting a wireless signal. The tag contains patient information gathered from the HIS/RIS, such as name and date of birth.

The Facial Recognition System prevents patient misidentification and avoids erroneous imaging studies. USC plans to add a biometric fingerprinting verification system later this year to improve overall LTVS biometric performance, Guo said.

"It is important to include biometric identification because other tracking devices can be easily stolen and used for impersonation in order to gain unauthorized access," Guo said.

The wireless signal from the tags is used by department staff to ensure patients do not go missing in the system. Prompts are also set to alert staff when patients have exceeded specified wait times. The tags are also useful in tracking and assembling radiology staff during emergency cases.

"The tags make it easier to locate physicians and technologists in an environment where cell phones are not reliable," Guo said.

LTVS allows the center to create a security zone to protect patient data, helping radiology administrators reduce or prevent HIPAA violations. LTVS triggers discreet notification alarms to supervisors when unauthorized access is attempted to computer systems or in sensitive areas.