Which is The Most Reliable Biometric Modality?

We recently conducted a Twitter poll: “What is considered to be the most accurate biometric modality among the following options?

We received a large number of responses from our community reflecting the following results:

  • 58% chose iris recognition
  • 32% chose fingerprint
  • Palm vein and facial recognition both got 5% of the votes

It’s interesting that people immediately gravitate towards iris recognition as the most accurate biometric than other modalities, with only fingerprint as a distant second. What is the reason behind the result?

best biometric modality

The best and most practical biometric modalities for individual identification

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The Difference between the Iris and the Retina and Why It’s Important In Biometric Identification

Importance of the differences between iris and retina biometrics

Iris recognition is a widely adapted biometric modality for use in border control, national ID, and (shown here) patient identification in healthcare

Iris recognition and retinal scanning are both very reliable modalities for biometric identification. However, both possess different characteristics that have a strong impact on their performance based on the environment and deployment purpose. Both biometric modalities use contactless scanners, but there are notable differences between iris recognition and retinal scanning; one being that iris recognition is considered non-invasive, and retinal scanning as invasive because it beams visible light into the eyes during the scanning process.

These biometric identification technologies are often misunderstood and incorrectly assumed to be one in the same despite their distinct differences. In this post, we will discuss the differences between iris recognition and retinal scanning.

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Iris recognition Vs. Palm Vein Biometrics – How do they compare?

The biometric technology used in iris recognition takes a digital photograph of the iris using safe, non-visible near-infrared technology, capturing more than 250 data points for identification

The biometric technology used in iris recognition takes a digital photograph of the iris using safe, non-visible near-infrared technology, capturing more than 250 data points for identification

If you are somewhat familiar with biometric technology and its use around the world, you probably recognize that iris recognition and palm vein biometrics are two completely different modalities, but did you know that they share some common characteristics? To begin with, both iris recognition and palm vein biometrics are biometric modalities used in identification and authentication of an individual. Iris recognition biometrics uses a detailed photographic image of the iris for identification whereas palm vein biometrics captures an image of the pattern of the veins under the skin of the palm for identification. Both of these biometric modalities are very effective and their implementations are determined by the environments each one is most suitable for.

Let’s take a look at these modalities and how they compare to each other in terms of functionality:
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Common Misunderstandings between Iris Recognition and Retina Scanning

Retinal Scanning and Iris Recognition: Are they different?

The colored section of the eye is known as the iris.

The biometric technology used in iris recognition takes a digital photograph of the iris using safe, non-visible near-infrared technology

Biometric identification management hardware modalities have different characteristics that often have a strong impact on their performance and acceptability by end users. You probably already know about the differences between fingerprint identification and finger-vein biometrics – fingerprint biometrics relying on an external physiological characteristic and finger vein biometrics use the vascular, internal vein patterns of the fingers for individual identification. Continue reading →

Should all Biometric Scanners be Contactless?

Contact Dependent Biometric Hardware Raises Hygiene Issues

Biometric scanners are often repeatedly touched by multiple users which, with concerns over hygiene, can sometimes be an issue in the field of biometric technology. Making physical contact is common for most fingerprint biometric scanners available on the market because you have to place your finger on the same sensor where countless others have already placed theirs although touching a fingerprint scanner is no more dangerous than touching a door-knob or computer mouse.

iris scanner for patient identification

Photo: Healthcare facilities using iris scanner for patient identification

In some countries, rising concerns over hygiene issues due to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza (bird flu), Ebola and swine influenza (swine flu)  has prompted health officials to more closely evaluate how these conditions are spread since most of these diseases are passed from person to person from touching communal surfaces in public places. Cognizant of the fact that some biometric hardware modalities require physical contact, biometric technology vendors and manufacturers of biometric scanners are working on fingerprint scanners that are completely contactless. Until then, what other options are currently available?

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Iris Scanners and Recognition: A Biometric Identification Technique for Airport Security Systems

iris biometrics for airport security

Iris recognition for airport security is becoming more prevalent around the globe.

This informative post is brought to you by ADAGOLD, an Australian-based Global Aviation specialist that has been providing market leading aircraft charter solutions.

Iris scanners are used to detect recognition of an individual’s identity by analyzing the random patterns that visibly appear inside a person’s iris from a certain distance. The technology combines optics, statistical conclusions, pattern recognition, and computer vision.

Among virtually every scanner and biometric device that’s available today, it’s agreed that iris recognition technology is by far the most accurate. The technique itself is relatively new, only in existence since 1994.
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Accurate Patient Identification Along the Care Continuum

biometric patient identification is gaining steam in healthcare due to its ability to accurately identify patients without a shadow of a doubt

Biometric patient identification systems are gaining momentum in healthcare. Seen here is a handheld iris recognition camera tethered to a smart tablet for bedside and mobile identity verification.

Ask any healthcare professional who is in synch with some of the major issues that the healthcare industry faces about the persistent problem of establishing accurate patient identification and chances are they will agree that it continues to be a top priority. Current patient identification and data matching initiaves underway by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) offer practical suggestions for matching patients with their health information.

A quick scroll down the list illustrates that the bulk of recommendations centers on standardizing patient identification attributes, supporting non-traditional matching attributes such as email addresses to improve data matching, enhancing EHRs to include the capability of providing duplicate medical record reports, and alerting patients to the importance of keeping their demogrphic information current and up-to-date. These are all very solid building blocks to advance the goal of accurate patient identification but seem to place the emphasis on accurate patient identification at the point of entry and does little to address the importance of verifying a patient’s identity at each touch point throughout the care continuum.

As clinicians know, ensuring patient identification accuracy prior to administering any type of care from medication distribution to diagnostic testing to radiology and oncology services and beyond is essential to make sure the right care is delivered to the right patient. For example, according to research from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 1.5 million preventable adverse drug effects (ADEs) happen in the United States each year and ADEs cost the United States $37.6 billion each year, with approximately $17 billion of these costs associated with preventable errors. The healthcare industry continues to struggle with errors due to the inability to accurately identify patients prior to care administration. It is costing the industry billions of dollars, not to mention jeopardizing the safety of patients and sullying the brand of healthcare facilities who are victims of patient misidentification that leads to in accurate care.

Most hospitals have policies in place that require clinicians to verify a patient’s identity prior to administering any type of care. The problem is that some of the patient identification technologies that facilities rely on like bar coded wrist bands have become antiquated and are highly susceptible to fraud and errors. Thus, even though a clinician may dutifully check a patient’s ID before say, giving them medication or prior to administering a test, the back-end technology most hospitals rely on to establish identification accuracy does not support the evolving healthcare landscape that requires adopting modern systems that eliminate any possibility of misidentification because they are based on verifying identity through a patient’s physiological characteristics. Characteristics which define individual identity that can’t be forged, swapped, or shared. Technologies like using biometrics for patient identification.

Technolgies such as biometric patient identification are gaining momentum in healthcare settings not only for their ability to accurately identify a patient upon entry into a healthcare facility but also for their utility to quickly and accurately identify patients bedside, in home health, the ER, and other mobile environments or in any other setting prior to care administration. The difference that biometrics brings to the table is it’s ability to not only provide patient identification accuracy without a shadow of a doubt, but also the ability to interface directly with tablets or smart devices and return a patient’s digital health care record in CCD format. The advent of biometrics for patient identification has significantly altered the approach to ensuring ID accuracy, and promises to help reduce or even eliminate errors that are caused by misidentification along that care continuum.


5 Patient Identification and Data Matching Issues the New HIMSS “Innovator in Residence” Must Address

accurate patient identification and data matching are important issues for the healthcare industry

The new HHS “Innovator in Residence faces some tough issues on patient identification and data matching.

On the heels of the recent announcement by HIMSS and the Department of Health and Human Services to hire an “Innovator in Residence” and make progress on the establishment of a nationwide patient data matching strategy, we thought it would be pertinent to outline some of the issues this person will face that require careful consideration. If the end goal is to establish a more consistent, industry standard approach that redefines patient identification and data matching accuracy, this new leader faces some tough challenges on the road ahead. Matching the right patient to the right data requires almost heroic efforts across an extremely disparate healthcare network and is the cornerstone of any viable health information exchange (HIE). Here are our top 5 issues that the new HIMSS/HHS “Innovator in Residence” must address:

1. Cost – Any new patient identification and data matching initiative will likely involve assessing the potential financial impact to healthcare facilities since any solution will most likely involve incorporating accurate matching algorithms into certified EHRs plus making changes to fields that capture soon to be standardized patient identifying attributes. With the recent changes that the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use requirements brought to the industry and the amount of dollars already shelled out for health IT, investment weary healthcare providers may balk at any solution that requires additional funds allocated to EHR resources to completely replace a system.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently released results from a study on developing an open source algorithm “to test the accuracy of their patient matching algorithms or be utilized by vendors that do not currently have patient matching capabilities built into their systems.” Their results indicated:

“During the environmental scan, many indicated that replacing their current systems would be cost prohibitive. As such, it is not suggested that a standardized patient matching algorithm be developed or required. In a more limited way, however, there is value in developing an open source algorithm or updating and supporting an existing open source algorithm that EHR vendors may choose to utilize in their products.”

2. Patient buy-in and accountability – As noble as the healthcare industry’s efforts to establish more accurate patient identification and data matching standards, the entire initiative is moot unless the new Innovator in Residence forges best practices and policies to encourage patients to keep their demographic information up-to-date and accurate. The new Innovator in Residence would be wise to capitalize on the patient engagement momentum spurred by Meaningful Use Stage 2 and extend the patient engagement initiative to include patient accountability for demographic information accuracy. Without patient buy-in and involvement, the industry can’t reasonably expect any worthwhile patient identification and data matching initiative to lift it’s wheels of the ground.

3. Technology – Incorporating non-traditional data attributes to improve patient matching is a great example of a “wish list” item by industry advocates pushing for stricter patient identification and data matching but currently, most EHR systems do not support the collection of this information in a standardized field format. Any legitimate effort to standardize patient identifiers and substantially increase data matching will most likely require new technologies or modifications of existing ones to meet these goals. On the surface, requests to add demographic fields to existing EHR interfaces or incorporate standardized deterministic or probabilistic algorithms may seem like small changes that don’t require a lot of effort, but in reality even the simplest of changes require health IT vendors to make significant investments in upgrading or completely replacing existing technology.

4. Rekindling the national patient identifier debate – Did you know that it’s been 14 years since Congress placed a moratorium on funding research and implementation of a national patient identifier (NPI)? 14 years. Sure to be rekindled as a debate topic that closely coincides with the industry’s push to standardize patient demographic data, the idea of establishing a NPI needs to be addressed now and the new Innovator in Residence should be standing behind the healthcare industry podium leading the discussion. Sure, there are lingering questions on the privacy and security implications of creating a NPI, issues surrounding who will manage and have access to any databases created, but ultimately the topic deserves to be put back on the table and expectations are that the Innovator in Residence will spearhead the efforts. Many people believe that an NPI is no different than the plethora of other personal identifiers we deal with in our everyday lives – social security numbers, employee IDs, and driver’s licenses numbers just to name a few. Why should the NPI be treated any differently? We surmise that the new Innovator in Residence will have to address a NPI sooner rather than later.

5. The validity of health information exchanges (HIEs) – Although there are myriad reasons to develop HIEs, the bottom line is that their existence is meant to facilitate the fluid exchange of health information between disparate systems in order to improve individual and population health. What often seems to often be left out in the conversation about HIEs is the introduction of a foolproof patient identification technology that can uniquely tie together a patient with their electronic health record in a standardized data format to help ensure high levels of data integrity. After all, what good is developing an integrated HIE without a back end patient identification system that prevents the creation of duplicate medical records and overlays?

The new HIMSS/HHS Innovator in Residence faces some tough challenges to help tie together and incorporate a nationwide patient identification and data matching initiatives. What points would you add to our list that are critical for this new position to address?

Why Apple’s use of Fingerprint Biometrics is Boon to Industry, not the Modality

fingerprint biometrics are just one of many modalities set for strong future growth

Apple’s use of fingerprint biometrics for security is a boon to the entire industry

Unless you are living under a rock, you have no doubt heard about Apple’s recent addition of fingerprint biometrics as an added security feature to their new generation of iPhones. it’s exciting to see a company like Apple dive into the foray of using biometrics for security, largely because it further propels biometric technology into the mainstream, raises the awareness of the technology, and opens new doors for it’s applicability and use in many different markets.

What should be made clear is that Apple’s use of biometric technology isn’t a boon for the fingerprint biometrics industry – it’s a lift for the entire industry. That’s why we were a little bit surprised to see this article prognosticating about the future potential uses of fingerprint biometrics in common, everyday life. The article authors suggest that we could see fingerprint biometrics used in the following capacities in the near future:

1. Automobiles
2. Gun safety
3. Home entertainment systems
4. Access control for a home or office
5. ATM withdraws
6. Entry into nightclubs or bars

We agree with the idea that these are indeed places that could see the use of biometrics in the future, but what we don’t agree with is using fingerprints as a biometric modality in all these applications. Yes, fingerprint biometrics are in fact the most common modality in the industry but also have distinct limitations in their effectiveness due to problems with; skin integrity, climate, ethnicity, and hygiene. How long do you think a hotel for example would rely on fingerprints for room access when they discover that a certain percentage of their patronage is not able to use the technology due because of some of the problems listed above, or refusal to use the biometric device because of hygiene reasons?

What’s much more realistic is a combination of fingerprint biometrics with other modalities like palm vein, finger vein, iris, and voice for these deployment examples, not just fingerprint alone. Vascular biometric modalities like finger vein and palm vein present certain advantages over fingerprints like: no contact with a sensor, scanning beneath the surface of the skin to alleviate skin integrity problems, an increased difficulty to recreate someone’s biometric template because the sensor of the vascular scanner needs the hand and blood flow to register an image, etc. The use of biometrics for ATM authentication is already widespread in places like Europe and Asia, and the preferred modality is usually palm vein or finger vein because of the advantages that they present over fingerprint.

Understanding that fingerprint biometrics are an excellent modality but have limitations that are overcome by more modern biometric hardware is key to envisioning more widespread use of the technology in everyday applications.

Iris Biometrics for Patient Identification Making an Impact in Ghana

iris biometrics for patient identification in Ghana

Dr. Gabriella Nanci leads The Yonkofa Project which aims to help the people of rural Ghana have access to healthcare.

If you don’t know who Dr. Gabriella Nanci is, you may want to stop and take a moment to read about her mission to make healthcare more accessible for rural Ghanians through The Yonkofa ProjectEstablished in 2010, The Yonkofa Project was conceived to help bring sustainable healthcare to the remote areas of Ghana through two important elements:

1. Employment and permanent housing for healthcare providers, giving them the opportunity to serve in their own country and in their own villages.

2. A permanent clinic building with modern equipment which will provide patients with preventive medicine, vaccinations, and prenatal care; all things that are impossible with temporary clinics.

Dr. Nanci’s passion for improving the quality of life for rural Ghanians by building local clinics and staffing them with full time healthcare providers drove her to seek breakthrough but affordable technologies that would help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of her efforts. One key area that Dr. Nanci identified as critical to the success of her mission was deploying a modernized patient identification system to help establish permanent medical records and create a concrete and accurate history of medical care. She investigated several patient identification solutions on the market and settled on RightPatient™ – our iris biometrics for patient identification solution – to identify patients treated at her clinics.

Since the inception of her project, Dr. Nanci enrolls hundreds of patients per day, quickly building her database to thousands of records, with the ability to instantly pull up a medical record after a fast biometric iris scan. Plus, we provided Dr. Nanci with the ability to quickly scale up her deployment to continue enrolling patients without any delays in quick, accurate patient identification results.

As part of her efforts, Dr. Nanci and her team have recently released a video detailing their efforts, highlighting use of the RightPatient™ iris biometrics for patient identification solution. Here is a link to the video – http://bit.ly/19QyVBd – please take a moment to watch and learn more about Dr. Nanci’s efforts and the power of iris biometrics for patient identification.

We were pleased to see a video encapsulating The Yonkofa Project’s efforts and the strategy they are employing to circumvent some of the common problems associated with launching this kind of effort despite the inadequacies of third world infrastructure. We proudly support her mission and are happy to be a part of the solution!