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Healthcare Meets Minority Report, and Patients Like It

Analysis  |  By  
   February 23, 2016

Using technology associated with a Tom Cruise movie to identify hospital patients is an actuality at one Louisiana hospital, where it saves time at check-in, reduces chances for patients to receive the wrong care, and has already paid for itself.

At Terrabonne General Medical Center, a 325-bed acute care hospital in Houma, Louisiana, patients check in by having their photo taken by a greeter at the door to the waiting room.

Technology behind the scenes scans the unique markings on each patient's irises, matches these patterns up to previous registration data, or flags the patient as being new. The whole iris-matching process takes a couple of seconds. Even identical twins have unique patterns, and the whole thing works with patients as young as nine months old.


According to John Sonnier, manager of patient access services at Terrabonne, the only time a patient has to be reenrolled with the iris-scanning technology from RightPatient is when the patient has cataract surgery. "The surgery distorts the iris, so they have to be reregistered," he says.

Once the camera at the front desk takes that photo of a registered patient, RightPatient consults a master patient index and pulls up the patient's medical record, which is stored in McKesson STAR, and the patient is checked in.

This workflow replaced one all-too-common at healthcare check-ins nationwide: asking patients to present a government-issued photo ID, dates of birth, and, most irritatingly to some patients, all or part of their Social Security number.

Since going live with RightPatient in December 2014, nearly 17,000 individuals have checked in at the at Terrabonne's hospital, its radiology areas, the outpatient ambulatory surgery center, and at the emergency department.

"There's only one person that I know of that did not want to have their picture taken," Sonnier says. "Once we went through all the standard questions; once we finished, and I explained, 'now if you would have allowed me to take a picture of your iris, it would have pulled you up within two seconds, and I wouldn't have had to ask all that information from you.' And that person allowed me to take a picture at that point."

The Simpler, the Better
Needless to say, the time saved at check-in, and the reduced chance for patients to receive (intentionally or unintentionally) the wrong care, mean Terrabonne's system has already paid for itself.

It also meets the criteria I set four years ago—the simpler the technology, the better. What could be a simpler biometric than taking a photo, crisp enough to capture unique iris patterns?

As it turns out, for patient experience, it can hardly get any simpler. It also plays out a science-fiction scenario described in the 2002 movie Minority Report, where Tom Cruise's character, and all others in this fictional world of 2054, are recognized by digital sensors. All manner of welcome and unwelcome personalization is present (personalized advertising being the most unwelcome-looking).


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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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