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Bobby Varma Sep 28, 2021 12:00:00 PM 11 min read

Centers First Biometric Reader Opens the Door to Extensive Possibilities

The Surgery Center at Hamilton

The Surgery Center at Hamilton is a state-of-the-art, multi-specialty surgery center in central New Jersey, located about midway between New York and Philadelphia. Chris Wetzel, the facility’s Chief Executive Officer, explains, “Any outpatient surgery that can happen on healthy, ambulatory patients, we can do here. Because we are focused just on surgery, we can perform procedures more cost-effectively than hospitals while providing a more personalized, less stressful experience for patients.”

Occupying 14,500 square feet of a 45,000 square foot building run by its hospital partner, Capitol Health, the Center has two endoscopy suites and four operating suites, as well as pre-op and recovery rooms. A beautiful lobby area and interior waiting room serve family and friends who accompany patients to their appointments.

There is also a narcotics and medication safety room. “Obviously, we tightly control who has access to our drug inventory,” says Mr. Wetzel. In the past, the Center used card badges to unlock the door. “It was a never-ending challenge to manage the system. There was the cumbersome process of enrollment, and then people would repeatedly lose their badges. Plus, the technology was a legacy system that the manufacturer no longer supported. I knew there had to be a better way.”

Securing the narcotics room was the sole reason Mr. Wetzel initially reached out to Princeton Identity (PI). However, as this success story explains, PI’s biometric identity solution so exceeded expectations that it has prompted discussions about diverse ways the technology might deliver a safer and more convenient environment for
patients and staff.

The Initial Project

The Surgery Center’s narcotics and medication room is accessible to about 50 people. Some are Center employees; others are physicians and anesthesia staff who perform procedures and provide patient care but are not employed by the Center.

A Princeton Identity biometric access control solution, which now secures this area, has eliminated the administrative hassles Mr. Wetzel faced managing the prior badge system. “Once the authorized personnel are enrolled, they just glance at the reader outside the door, it recognizes their iris, and boom, the door opens,” he says. “It’s a much better solution than badge access. Your eyes don’t change. Once someone is enrolled in the system, that’s it. I don’t have to deal with them again unless I need to change their permissions. Plus, the fact that it works with face masks is fantastic. Our O.R. staff wears masks all the time, even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic.”

Enrolling users into the database takes only a minute or two. They stand in front of the reader while Mr. Wetzel accesses the system’s cloud-based software from his laptop. “I click on an icon, wait while the reader takes a reading of their iris, fill in a couple of fields, and that’s it. It’s a lot faster than enrolling people with the old badge system,” he explains.

Princeton Identity handled the installation with minimal support from the Center’s IT staff. “We just had to run a network line to the reader location, and P.I. did the rest. They trained me to log in and manage the system. The company provided a one-stop solution.”

Bobby Varma, Princeton Identity’s President, says, “The Surgery Center at Hamilton’s narcotics room is an ideal application for biometric access control, particularly with an iris modality that works with medical gloves and masks. Tight control of medication is non-negotiable, but it doesn’t have to be an obstacle to seamless patient care. Touchless biometric identity solutions provide convenient, frictionless access to authorized personnel while providing management with automated, completely accurate tracking of who has been in and out of the room.”

“The installation also provided us with an entrée to present the many other ways our solution could improve the facility’s security and operations,” she adds.

Expanding Access Control

The Surgery Center’s enthusiastic response to PI’s initial installation has Mr. Wetzel planning to expand the technology’s use to other access points throughout the facility. The new system is fully scalable; iris readers and users can be added as desired, and permissions defined at the user level for each additional controlled entry point. Although Mr. Wetzel lacks control over doorways outside the Center’s suite, ample opportunities exist inside to streamline access control – both from a user experience and as a system manager.

Even with just one doorway currently in operation, Mr. Wetzel sees a return on investment. “The PI system is easy to use, accurate, and the reporting is good. I don’t have any frustrations from my staff members whatsoever. I’m no longer worrying about who has access, who doesn’t, and who lost their badge. From a quality-of-life standpoint, the return on investment is priceless.”

Expanding Options

Expanding access control is only one avenue the Center is exploring. In conversations with PI, many other possible applications are under discussion. “We’re working on a lot of opportunities to maintain security in a non-touch type of way. In terms of exploiting what the technology can do for us, we’re just in the early stages,” Mr. Wetzel says.

“When people think of biometrics, they first think of access control,” explains Ms. Varma. “However, PI is at the forefront of supporting myriad applications that improve the quality of today’s healthcare environment.”

While not all the following examples may come to fruition at The Surgery Center at Hamilton, they are a sampling of possibilities that biometric identity solutions can offer to clinics, outpatient centers, and hospitals.

Patient Identity

“Patient identification in surgery is a pillar of success,” says Mr. Wetzel. “Using biometrics, instead of relying on people to verify a patient’s identity, can eliminate any room for error.”

By integrating biometric identification with patient records, healthcare facilities like the Surgery Center at Hamilton can eliminate possible confusion over individuals with similar names or duplicate records for the same person under slightly different names. It can also ensure more accurate billing.

Time and Attendance

PI integrates with time-and-attendance systems, allowing workers to punch in and out simply by glancing at a reader. Automated temperature checks can occur simultaneously. When the pandemic began, Surgery Center employees began using their phones to clock in and submit to a temperature check upon entering the facility. Using a biometric solution, like PIs, is a more streamlined and convenient solution for employees while eliminating the opportunity for time clock fraud that costs employers millions each year.

Visitor Management

Like at any healthcare facility, Surgery Center patients who receive anesthesia during their procedure must rely on others for transportation.

Automating visitor management with the help of biometrics could relieve office staff from the responsibility of registering patients’ accompanying family members or friends. Visitors could self-register at a kiosk upon arrival. Then, should they opt to leave during the patient’s treatment, an iris reader at the entry to the interior waiting room would allow them to reenter without getting buzzed in. The system would immediately notify staff of their return and their identity.

Similar opportunities exist for much larger healthcare facilities, including hospitals. Maternity and pediatric wards both accommodate frequent, repeat visitors throughout each patient’s stay. Biometric readers at the entrances to these wards could allow authorized visitors to enter through secure doorways during approved hours without requiring already overtaxed nursing staff to assist them.

Logical Access

Within a healthcare environment, computers are usually shared by multiple staff members. Biometrics can verify the identity of medical personnel accessing patient files. It can also grant permission to use restricted medical equipment or computer applications. Small, specialized, touchless readers attached to computers or devices can identify authorized users, enabling access to appropriate network resources based on their position and need. Passwords are unnecessary.

Moving Forward

At the Surgery Center at Hamilton, Mr. Wetzel’s quest to better secure the narcotics and medical room has led to a realization that biometric identity solutions help healthcare facilities like his with far more than access control. “Ultimately, I want to provide the safest, most secure environment in the most efficient way possible,” he says. “Princeton Identity helps me check those boxes. PI’s president, their installation personnel, and all their staff – they’re top notch and listen to our needs. I look forward to working with them on a range of customized solutions that take the capabilities of biometric identity in healthcare into new territory.”

Bobby Varma

Bobby Varma is the CEO of Princeton Identity.