N.Y. Hospitals, Siemens Launch Smart-Card Pilot

100,000 cards will be distributed

Two major New York hospitals have joined with a vendor of smart-card technologies on a pilot project to provide patients with portable health care records and give doctors better access to that data.

Under the initiative announced last week, Mount Sinai Medical Center, the Elmhurst Hospital Center and Siemens Communications Inc. will start deploying around 100,000 smart cards to patients at these hospitals and several affiliates beginning in the second quarter of 2006.

Each hospital in the network will issue smart cards that integrate a patient's identity data with essential health information that can be quickly accessed and routinely updated by health care professionals who are part of the regional smart-card network.

The network will enable portability of patient health care data and help reduce medical errors caused by misinformation or lack of patient data, said Jack Nelson, CIO at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

Nelson noted that there is much interest among health care providers and state and federal governments in making health care information more accessible to providers and patients.

The smart-card initiative can make such information portable without the need to invest in the expensive and complex infrastructure that a connected health care network requires, he said. The hospitals involved in the pilot program only need card readers and associated software, he added. National System in Sight

The New York effort demonstrates that the federal government's goal of making patient health information portable and accessible can be attained using existing technologies, said Jonathan Leviss, medical director of Sentillion Inc. , an Andover. Mass.-based vendor of identity management technologies.

Leviss had been involved in the early days of the project in his former job as chief medical information officer at New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., the city's public hospital network.

He said the success of such projects and the proliferation of smart-card-based programs now depend mostly on resolving several process- and security-related issues.

Leviss said officials must answer several questions: What patient data can be put on smart cards? Who can access that data and for what purpose? When can the data be accessed? And how can it be protected from accidental or deliberate misuse?

"As we provide information outside of the primary health-care facility, we have to be assured that the patient data is secure," he said.

"This seems to be a fairly broad project," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance in Princeton Junction, N.J. The industry group has for some time been advocating the use of smart cards in health care applications through its Healthcare Industry Council.

Although a few hospitals have begun implementing similar networks for patient identification and authentication applications, there are only a few cases in the U.S. similar to the effort in New York, Vanderhoof said.

Such projects are also under way at Denver Health, Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Massachusetts, and Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver, Pa., according to the Smart Card Alliance.

Initially, Mount Sinai will use the smart cards in emergency rooms to identify patients and gain access to their medical histories, Nelson said.

The 64KB cards will let Mount Sinai incorporate up to 27 pages of encrypted medical history, including data on chronic diseases, current medications and possibly even compressed EKG information, Nelson said.

Smart-card vendor Siemens Communications, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla., is kicking in $2 million to support the project. The money will be used to purchase hardware and software for producing, reading and managing the smart cards.

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Patient Health Smart-Card Initiative

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Led by Mount Sinai Medical Center, Elmhurst Hospital and Siemens Communications.

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Pilot program will distribute about 100,000 smart cards to patients of Elmhurst Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and affiliated hospitals.

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Smart cards will include up to 27 pages of patient health information.

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Program will eventually include about 45 affiliated and related health care facilities.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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