New technology at St. Joe Health System makes checking in more secure, accurate

Published: Jan. 16, 2017 at 7:15 PM EST
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Checking into the hospital, whether planned or an emergency, is always stressful.

But now, one of the most wired hospitals in the nation, which happens to be right here in Michiana, is making the process of checking in more secure and accurate.

It may sound like science fiction, but St. Joseph Health System is now using biometric palm scanning to help capture a patient's personal information.

Anyone who has checked into a hospital knows it can be a long and tedious process at a time when nerves are already frayed.

St. Joseph Health System CEO Chad Towner explains that their campuses in Mishawaka and Plymouth have streamlined registration with new technology.

"What we've done is invested in is new palm vein scanning technology," said Towner.

It may sound like something out of the future, but St. Joseph has become the only hospital in the region to invest in the technology.

"It's a way to biometrically mark each individual and tie it back to who they really are," Towner explained.

Tara D'Haenens, the manager of Patient Access & Communications, explains when a patient checks in, it is important to insure who they are and what their medical records hold.

"Making sure that we have the right person, even if you have a common name, there are duplicates out there of names and date of birth and we know we have the right individual," said D'Haenens.

Adding it also comes in handy for people with hyphenated names that are often difficult to look up.

So, how does it work? A person's individual veins develop before birth and remain unique throughout life. By placing your hand on the scanner, in mere seconds, a low infrared light scans the vein map of your hand. Unlike finger prints that look at eight to 16 points on your finger, palm scanning looks at 30,000 different points.

"It's not actually looking at the skin itself or any patterns on your skin, it's looking at the subcutaneous underneath, where the blood vessels are," said D'Haenens.

Towner added, "Even if I had a twin brother, our veins and the way they are mapped in the palm of your hand is different for everybody."

Towner says in additional to speeding up registration, the technology will undoubtedly save lives.

"Let's say I was in a bad accident today and I'm unconscious and hauled in an ambulance. If I am already preregistered in the system, they can place my hand on this and they know who I am," said Towner, "So they would know if my medical history is tied into the system, my allergies, who my physicians are. So, access to care, access to information that possibly saves my life."

NewsCenter 16's Maureen McFadden had a mammogram in December at the Paqui and Brian Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center and was registered with the biometric palm scanning, so would scanning her again Monday be as easy as advertised?

D'Haenens asked Maureen her birth date and to sanitize her hands.

"If I could go ahead and ask you to put your palm on the scanner, we'll just start that scan and you'll see here that it's just going through and it tells me that I have a match found," D'Haenens said to Maureen.

In a matter of seconds, all of Maureen's medical records come up on D'Haenens' computer screen, proving how quickly she could be admitted and doctors could access her medical history.

D'Haenens says it also offers important protection to patients.

"But it is also really important to be able to identify and issues of insurance fraud as well as to prevent identity theft," D'Haenen explained.

And while this new technology will make the process easier, Towner says more importantly, is the outcome of every patient coming through the doors at St. Joseph Health System.

"I really believe there will come a time, and even if it's one – and think about the investment we're putting in here – if we're having a difference in one life, it's worth it," said Towner.

"Somebody will come in unconscious in an ambulance," Towner continued, "If they are in and we scan their hand and we know who they are, we are able to start putting things in place and take care of them. This is going to save lives."

The hospital is offering palm vein scanning this week at both the Mishawaka and Plymouth hospitals.

All you have to do is show up at the registration desk and you will be in the system should you need to get a test or be hospitalized.

For more information on palm scanning,

to visit the St. Joseph Health System website.