Using biometric technology to combat medical identity theft

Iris scans may soon await you on your next hospital visit.

Cases of identity theft usually revolve around stolen credit cards and bank accounts. But these days, stolen identities are also being used for medical treatment. An Ohio man recently indicted on identity theft charges is said to have used another person's identity to get more than $300,000 in medical treatment.

This sort of data breach can cost the U.S. health care system up to $7 billion a year, according to the Ponemon Institute, which studies privacy, data protection and security.

Increasingly, biometric technology (things like iris scanners or palm vein readers, previously found mostly in sci-fi movies) is being considered as a way of verifying people's identities. Sales of biometric devices are forecast to rise 20 percent a year to nearly $11 billion by 2017, and these providers speak of increasing demand from health care providers.

These days, an iris-scanning unit can cost between $200 and $300. According to Joey Pritkin, director of product marketing for identity solutions at AOptix, whose technology is used at London's Gatwick airport, an iris scan is 100,000 times more resistant to false identification than facial-recognition software.

Among the 80 health care groups surveyed by the Ponemon Institute, more than half reported at least one incident of medical identity theft, and forty-five percent reported more than five data breaches in the past two years.

“This is a technology whose time has arrived both in a cost sense and in terms of its potential utilization,” said Ted Dunstone, chief executive officer of Australian consulting firm Biometix.

via [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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