Hospital scans palms to pull up medical records

A replacement for the insurance card? New York University Langone Medical Center plans to reduce paperwork and prevent identity theft by using the PatientSecure device.

Andrew Nusca Special to CNET News
Andrew Nusca is the editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor at ZDNet. He has written for New York, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics, and Money. He is based in New York.
Andrew Nusca

A New York City hospital is using patients' palms, not insurance cards, to pull up their records, according to a new report.

A PatientSecure scanner, in action.
A PatientSecure scanner, in action. PatientSecure

The New York University Langone Medical Center started scanning palms last month to reduce paperwork and prevent identity theft, the New York Daily News reports, using a device that images the veins in a patient's hand.

Shaped like a butter tray, the black PatientSecure device uses infrared light to scan palms, then links the unique biometric trait to a patient's electronic health records.

That's right: no need to pore through a purse for an insurance card. When you return to the hospital for a visit, just place your hand on the box, and let the machine do the talking.

The hope is that such technology can help receptionists and patients spend more time dealing with each other than paperwork. NYU is the first hospital to use the system.

One patient who asked not to be identified found the practice creepy, according to the New York Daily News report. "It was the kind of intrusion that, if government needed it, you'd have to be under arrest or something," he said.

The system is, of course, optional, and the palm print is included in the patient information protected by federal law. More than 22,000 patients have used the system already, the hospital says.

Here's a look at how it works in a video:

This story was originally posted on SmartPlanet's Smart Takes blog as "Hospital scans palms to track patients."