Fingerprints and iris scans as hospitals tighten security

Ben Woodhead
The Australian
Tuesday July 3, 2007

DOCTORS in South Australian hospitals may be subjected to biometric fingerprint and iris scans if they want to access sensitive patient records and prescribe drugs.

The technology, which includes keyboard-mounted fingerprint scanners and smartcard readers, could be deployed in hospital emergency departments within 12 months.

The scanners would be used to strengthen security around patient records as hospitals build new links between the numerous information systems used to manage medical data.

It could also have lifesaving implications by making it faster for doctors and nursing staff to access critical records that are controlled at present by large numbers of passwords.

South Australia Department of Health chief information officer David Johnston said the organisation had already completed several in emergency departments and general hospital wards.

A further pilot involving 300 users is being planned, and specialist consultants have also been contracted to review already completed trials.

"It is intended to cover all health employees within a four-year timeframe," Mr Johnston said.

"Emergency departments are likely to be the first production users within 12 months."

Mr Johnson said the Department of Health was primarily focused on fingerprint scanning and smartcards, but he said iris scanners were also being examined.

Iris scanners have been adopted by other organisations, including prisons.The move by the Department of Health to regulate access to hospital computer systems through fingerprint scans and smartcards is part of a $375 million information systems project.

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