The hospitals' parent company Northeast Health System (NHS) has been working closely with Oklahoma City based Health Card Technologies Inc. (HCT) for the past year to develop a patient admitting system that uses smart cards with embedded computer chips. The cards contain access codes for each patient's medical record, which are read through smart card readers attached to the hospitals' admitting terminals.
"Our admissions process is easier and more convenient with patient smart cards", stated Cheryl Akre Teal, director of access services of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals. "The access services staff can pull up the patient information instantaneously, eliminating the need for entering the record number manually. This greatly reduces the likelihood of errors such as duplicate records."
Accidental creation of duplicate records is a major problem in health care computing. It can be caused by an errant keystroke in the data entry process, or when a patient or family member provides the wrong social security number. These errors are not only a time-consuming headache for medical records staff, but they can cause critical medical information to be hidden from treatment professionals. "With the smart card, we will decrease duplicate records and improve patient identification", added Cheryl Akre Teal.
Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals' smart cards only store information that identifies the patient's records in the hospitals' computers. If the card is stolen or lost, there is no security risk. "Even if someone with the right tools managed to read the information on the smart card chip, they wouldn't learn anything other than the patient's record number within our system. This won't help anyone defeat all of the layers of security and access control we have in place that ensure that patient confidentiality, especially when dealing with medical records, is held to the highest integrity", stated Cheryl Akre Teal.
The smart card admissions programme is just the first step in establishing a system where ultimately all patients will carry their medical history on a smart card. "Today we are addressing a very important need within hospitals to streamline admission, but more importantly, we have built the infrastructure to launch more sophisticated applications of smart cards in the future. We'll be able to offer cards that store extensive medical history information, insurance data, emergency contacts and more", stated Chris Kavanaugh, CEO and president of HCT. "We can start to build a community-wide health care information network that links patients, care providers, and payers."
NHS is fully implementing the admission programme over the next several months. From there, they will be actively seeking to grow card applications. "We'll be expanding the smart card system for the next several years", stated Cheryl Akre Teal. "We evaluated many alternatives and are convinced that smart cards offer the best combination of convenience and security."
Smart cards are a family of plastic wallet sized cards with embedded computer chips. These chips are available with a wide variety of security capabilities and storage capacities. Currently, smart cards are available with highly advanced built-in cryptographic engines for public key security; others have up to one megabyte of electronically reprogrammable memory.
The smart card systems of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals use the same technology being used in the national health care smart card programme of Germany, an application of over 80 million smart cards. The smart card chips, manufactured by Infineon Technologies AG of Munich, Germany, are models SLE4442. The smart card readers, manufactured by SCM Microsystems of Ismaning, Germany, are the Towitoko Chipdrive 130s.
HCT specializes in medical applications of advanced automation technologies, and has been in business since 1994. In addition to the programme in Beverly, HCT has provided smart card systems for two Oklahoma hospital networks. Northeast Health System Inc. is an integrated health care system comprised of a network of hospitals and medical affiliates offering North Shore residents general and specialized medical care. Along with Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, NHS' two acute care facilities, behavioural health services are provided through Health & Education Services Inc., while substance abuse and prevention services are available through CAB Health & Recovery Services Inc.