Patient smart cards get boost at N.Y. hospitals

Cards issued by Mt. Sinai Medical Center and affiliated hospitals could help reduce medical errors. Could this card save your life?

Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
Alorie Gilbert
2 min read
High-tech identification cards could soon make hospital procedures much safer affairs if a Mt. Sinai Medical Center project goes as planned.

The New York City hospital is working with eight affiliated hospitals in the region to issue smart cards to 100,000 patients starting next spring. Doctors at any of the participating hospitals will be able to swipe patients' cards for an instant medical history, including current medications, conditions, allergies and lab results.


The technology, developed in partnership with Siemens Communications, should help reduce medical errors and the time patients spend waiting for treatment, the hospital said this week. For instance, doctors could swipe the card before prescribing medicine to avoid harmful drug interactions.

"In terms of emergency care it can really improve the patient outcome," said Paul Contino, the hospital's head of technology.

Hospitals around the country are experimenting with smart card technology, but Mt. Sinai will be the first to use them on such a large scale, Contino said. The cards, which cost about $7 a piece, will hold more data than other patient smart cards and may eventually work at 45 affiliated health care facilities in the region, he said. The ultimate goal is to create a national standard, linking patient records at hospitals across the country, he added.

"We're basically trailblazing to show it will work in New York, one of the largest health care markets in the nation," Contino said.

The credit card-size IDs contain microchips capable of recording and storing detailed medical data. To access the information, patients insert the card into a reader and enter a personal identification number. Siemens Communications, a U.S. division of the German electronics giant, is supplying Mt. Sinai with cards, readers and related software. The company also has agreed to pay for the first 100,000 cards.