By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: January 8th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A hospital visit usually means at least fifteen minutes filling out all the paperwork and insurance forms associated with a trip to the doctor.

Imagine instead holding up your palm to a little black box, where an infrared beam of light scans your palm. In an instant, all your personal information… from your Social Security number to your medical history… pops up on the hospital’s computer system.

Sound like something out of a James Bond movie? Scenes like this are actually playing out in hospitals across the country, as more and more health facilities invest in biometrics, measurements related to the human body. Not only do these technological devices save time, they also decrease the likelihood of error and improve hospital efficiency, experts say.

There are already products on the market that identify people by their fingerprints, faces and ears, and palms. The technology is becoming increasingly common, used everywhere from airport security to Walt Disney World, where visitors get their fingers scanned to enter.

But experts believe biometrics might prove most useful in hospitals. Some facilities even plan to use the devices to identify unconscious patients who come into the emergency room. This could provide valuable data, such as the patient’s medications and any pre-existing medical conditions.

Biometrics can also help cut down on fraud by pinpointing patients who try to use someone else’s name or insurance.

And let’s face it, from a patient’s perspective, anything that shortens time spent filling out forms never hurt.