Are Biometrics The Future For The NHS?

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Biometric Technology in the NHS

After the huge launch at the Apple Event last night, everyone is talking about the leap in biometric technology to drop the fingerprint scanner in favour of facial recognition.

Biometrics are physiological reference points that are unique to every individual. The most commonly used are fingerprint and iris scanners, or facial recognition infrared technology.

It made us think here at Isosec, that fingerprint scanners are commonplace in all industries: Timekeeping sign-in systems are often fingerprint scanners, they’re used in HR and payroll and even some schools to take out library books; biometrics are widely accepted everywhere except the NHS.

As mounting economic and political pressure on the NHS forces IT leaders to adopt new technology to be more resourceful, one of the biggest worries is cybersecurity and the ways digital records can best be protected. Some Trust’s already use biometrics for restricted access areas and equipment. Could using biometrics to authenticate clinical staff be a sensible adoption for the NHS?

NHS Biometrics Iris Scan

What are the Advantages of Using Biometric Technology in the NHS?

  • Time Savings – In the NHS time is critical and by not having to waste time entering passcodes every time you authenticate, or having to reset your details with the registration authority more time can be spent on patient care.
  • Cost Savings – There would be no need for specialist printers or materials to print smartcards on, and no more buying smartcard readers. Smartphone’s are in everyone’s pockets and software could be set-up where code is shared with your personal device from the workstation and you authenticate using your biometrics on there.
  • Less Errors – Biometric data doesn’t change, so there’s less chance of duplicated records when you change your surname, or locked accounts when you forget or mistype your passcode.
  • Improve Security – Reduce reliance on secondary info like passcodes and high risk methods like smartcards that can both be shared or misplaced.
  • More Audits and Data – With new technology data is captured in real-time and can be easily shared and compiled to reveal new key learnings for an organisation which could be very beneficial to improving care in the NHS. Biometrics are unequivocal, providing clear audit trails for which users have done which tasks without wondering if a smartcard has been borrowed or passcode shared.
  • Integrated Care Pathways – If the NHS as a whole were to adopt biometrics as a patient identifier, for example, then those patients who are geographically shared by Trusts or have more complex healthcare in a range of settings could share their information more easily. With a biometric-accessed record a patient could take their health record with them wherever they go, be it social care, community care, or acute. They can also give consent to share their information in real-time, rather than waiting for paperwork to be processed.

Are Biometrics the Future of Cybersecurity in the NHS?

Whether the whole NHS will opt to use biometric data alone like Apple have done is hard to tell, the technology needs more thorough user testing first. Current NHS security standards demand dual authentication (e.g. a biometric plus a passcode) for an added layer of security, but as technology marches forward perhaps we will see a change in the UK’s digital healthcare technology, especially with the advantages stacking up. There is certainly no reason for Trust’s to wait to investigate their options, the technology is already here and waiting to be used to it’s full potential.

If you would like to talk to us more about our smart authentication products for the NHS please visit our website where you will find brochures and videos on our iO Virtual Smartcard.

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