Biometric technology to combat healthcare fraud
By Dr Nick van der Merwe, Director of Muvoni Biometric and Smartcard Solutions (MBSS).
Fraudulent crimes headline our newspapers on a daily basis. In fact, it has been reported that South African companies experience more fraud than their counterpart companies in other countries, says Dr Nick van der Merwe, Director of Muvoni Biometric and Smartcard Solutions (MBSS).
The inextricable security measures we have to go through to protect our information and filling out cumbersome forms with our personal details, is not only time consuming but tedious.
The healthcare industry is not immune to fraudulent activity. Economic crime and identity theft is increasing; and with advances in technology, more and more personal information is being stored electronically on multiple databases.
Healthcare facilities and insurance companies capture in depth personal patient information, records and confidential material. Successful management of information is definitely one of the keys to effective provision of care and ultimately better health risk management.
In South Africa, the government is placing emphasis on the quality of medical services and the protection of patient information, privacy and sufficient resources. In response to improving and establishing a better mode of security for patients and professionals in the healthcare industry, MBSS, in conjunction with Lifepoint, has developed an integrated e-health, biometric technology, real-time claiming and payment solution.
The term "biometrics" is defined as "automated recognition of individuals based on their behavioural and biological characteristics". Although there is a steadily increasing list of biometric technologies in use or under development, the most common ones are fingerprint, face, voice and iris in order to uniquely identify an individual. This technology can be heralded as the futuristic method of securing one's identity.
MBSS recognised that biometric technology implementation in the healthcare industry has many notable benefits including: achieving greater efficiency and cost saving, providing greater access to care, effective risk management, reduction in the incidence of fraud, much more efficient administration, less debt and improved resource management.
Recent studies reveal that incidences of fraud and costs of unnecessary administration is estimated to costs medical aid approximately R90 per member per month.
Van der Merwe states that biometric technology in healthcare has many benefits other than securing patient information ? from helping to accurately identify patients to securing information only accessible to internal hospital staff and their systems; this creates accountability among hospital staff by way of acquiring the biometric credential requirements.
Ensuring only authorised personnel can access patient medical records gives the patient more peace of mind. It also eliminates the need for password management, establishes a concrete audit trail of activities, encrypts files, secures communications across the network, and allows medical facilities to easily scale from one user to thousands of users with multiple types of authentication devices. Contrastingly different from the smart card system currently utilised, biometrics offer up to date information and real time synchronisation for each patient.
Delivering fast and accurate information, biometric patient identification is extremely user-friendly and proves to be an effective data protection tool. Through its patient identification credibility, biometric technology will ensure the right care is being delivered to the right patient.
The primary application of MBSS's biometrics system for patient identification in healthcare is to increase patient safety. Using biometrics to accurately identify patients helps to:
* Prevent duplicate medical records
* Eliminate medical identity theft and fraud at the point of service
* Identify unconscious patients
* Lower financial risk to medical service providers
* Speed up the claims process
* Overcome problems with cultural naming conventions
* Track patients with chronic disease to help with medication adherence and mapping patterns to ensure the right care is delivered to the right patient
Van der Merwe concludes that this data integrity solution helps strengthen patient safety and improves patient experiences in the healthcare industry. Biometrics prevent fatal errors which could possibly lead to irreversible physical damage and even death, essentially it will combat and protect individuals against medical identity theft and fraud.