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UMPC’s Launch of Biometric Registration Kiosks on Track

UPMC is on track to have biometric registration kiosks on 18 of its medical campuses by September, and has registered more than a quarter of a million patients in the new system since launching it a year and a half ago

UMPC's Launch of Biometric Registration Kiosks on Track

UPMC is on track to have biometric registration kiosks on 18 of its medical campuses by September, and has registered more than a quarter of a million patients in the new system since launching it a year and a half ago.

The health system has installed more than 550 biometric registration kiosks at 15 of its campuses, with a goal of incorporating three more by September, said Karen Shaffer-Platt, vice president of revenue cycle for UPMC. This month, the Altoona and Mercy campuses will get the upgrades.

“We’ve been on an 18-month journey, with the goal of trying to get all of our campuses up,” she said. “It really is probably the most specific and exact method of identifying people in a quick and meaningful way, so UPMC made the commitment that, with the amount of money we were already using at all of our arrival sites and access areas, the cost of that and the lack of patient satisfaction … it seemed like a perfect marriage.”

Shaffer-Platt noted that though the plan was launched prior to some of UPMC’s more recent acquisitions, it is on track for its original goal of 18 campuses in 18 months, and will look toward incorporating it at its newer sites moving forward. The impetus for implementing the system was to address problems common in the health care setting, Shaffer-Platt said, including insurance fraud and frustration from patients forced to re-identify themselves when seeking services.

“There was this sense of ‘why do I have to go through this? Why do I always have to identify myself?’ Then, of course, there is identity theft out there. Obviously insurance is expensive these days, and we sit in the middle of college campuses, and the general sense that anybody can borrow anybody’s health insurance card and borrow their identity exists,” she said. “Drug seekers also move around with different forms of identity, from doctor to doctor, and so biometrics, which has been out there in other industries for a while, seemed like a natural solution.”

Mark Hrzic, senior director of enterprise business services at UPMC, said the system incorporates a touch screen and fingerprint scanner, and all of the back-end communication between the scanner and UPMC’s registry is encrypted and inaccessible to the hospital system.

“We do not store the fingerprint itself in our system, but it is stored, encrypted, through our vendor partner, Certify Global Inc.,” he said. “From a data in transit and a data at rest perspective, there is encryption throughout.”

According to Shaffer-Platt, the response to the system has been fairly positive, with upwards of 65 percent of patients opting into it on the first query. Many other patients defer their sign up, and roughly 8 percent give a hard no, Shaffer-Platt said.

“We have a document that outlines that we don’t use it for any purpose other than identification — it isn’t shared with anyone else, we don’t sell it, and we have an obligation to privacy,” she said. “It also goes over the benefits of it, including identification issues that may spring up. If you’re in the emergency department, you may not bring your wallet.”

Both Hrzic and Shaffer-Platt pointed to potential alternate uses for the technology, including things like allowing visitors access to services like parking and the cafeteria. UPMC intends to begin collecting biometric data on patients outside the clinical setting, Shaffer-Platt said, through employer partnerships and other venues.

“We’re looking at this as the first step in using this technology, and we can build on this framework once we get this base level out there,” Hrzic said.